When we Arizonans hear “Grand Canyon,” we think of the big hole in the northern part of our state. But did you know that Yellowstone also has a Grand Canyon and it’s spectacular? In fact, the Canyon area of the national park is the second most visited area in the park, just behind Old Faithful.
Our first glimpse of the canyon was on our first day’s drive around the park. By the time we got to the south rim, we were tired and not interested in doing any kind of in-depth exploration. We took some pictures and moved on. But, we knew we had to return to do a full exploration of the north rim.
Once again, we arrived in the early morning to avoid the crowds and it was a good idea. In fact, at some overlooks we were the only people there! The early morning mist and low hanging clouds also added to the dramatic atmosphere. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is punctuated by two massive falls–upper and lower. Each fall has a trail that take you down over 500 feet to the brink of the falls. We did both.
The trails are short but steep, and the rewards are magnificent. To be able to stand atop a waterfall that is rushing downward right before your eyes is a real rush.
In addition to hiking the “brink” trails we also walked the north rim trail to the end. All along the 2 1/2 mile trail we could see into the canyon that has been carved by the Yellowstone River over millions of years. Words like “spectacular,” “magnificent,” and “incredible” are not enough to describe the grandeur of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
After we explored the canyon and strolled through the visitor center and gift shop, we headed to one more area that our guidebooks highly recommended: Artists Paint Pots. We had to wait out a hailstorm, but that just added to the mystery of this place. The Paint Pots thermal area features a one mile loop across boardwalks that pass colorful geothermal springs and mud pots, with the highlight being the boiling mud pots.
In fact, our guidebook called this feature the “giggliest” thermal feature in Yellowstone. Hopefully this video gives you a good idea of why it’s such a funny thing.
Does it feel like we’ve done a lot already? Well, we have and there’s still more to come. We’ll have another blog post coming your way soon to describe the fun things we did outside the park and to feature all the incredible animals we met during our Yellowstone travels.