Yellowstone National Park

Hiking the Canyon
Gorp.com
Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park
Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park (Richard Nowitz/Digital Vision/Getty)

Trails and Other Backcountry Features

Numerous trails suitable for short or extended hikes into Yellowstone's backcountry begin in the Canyon area. Consult the Dayhike Sampler, Short Hikes in the Canyon Area, and other publications for more information. Always obtain current trail conditions and bear activity information at visitor centers.

A number of trails wind along the rims and down into the Canyon. Descriptions listed below will help you plan your hike. Trails into the Canyon will be steep. Wear comfortable shoes, carry water, and take your time! Spring, fall, and winter visitors should inquire locally for updates on trail conditions. Due to hazardous conditions, some trails are closed at these times.

Trails

Howard Eaton Trail
Estimated time: 2-8 hours
Level of difficulty: Moderately easy; little vertical rise
Trailhead: Trail begins 0.5 mile (0.8 km) west of Canyon Jct. on the Norris-Canyon Road
Trail Description: Pass through forest, meadow, and marshland to Cascade Lake (3 miles; 4.8 km), Grebe Lake (4.25 mi; 6.8 km), Wolf Lake (6.25 mi; 10 km), Ice Lake (8.5 mi; 13.7 km), and Norris Campground (12 mi; 19.3 km). Most years, this trail remains very wet and muddy through July. Insects can be quite annoying!

Observation Peak
Round trip distance: 6 miles (9.7 km)
Estimated time: 4 hours
Level of difficulty: Strenuous; 1,400 foot (425 m) vertical rise in 3 miles (4.8 km)
Trailhead: Trail begins at Cascade Lake
Trail Description: Hike to a high mountain peak for an outstanding view of the Yellowstone wilderness. The trail passes through open meadows and some white bark pine forest. Past Cascade Lake, no water is available along the trail. Not recommended for persons with heart and/or respiratory problems.

Cascade Lake (via Cascade Lake Picnic Area)
Round trip distance: 4.5 miles (7.2 km)
Estimated time: 3 hours
Level of difficulty: Easy, level walking
Trailhead: Trail begins at the Cascade Lake Picnic Area, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) north of Canyon Jct. on the Tower-Canyon Road.
Trail Description: An enjoyable walk through open meadows and over small creeks for those with limited time. Look for wildlife and wildflowers in season. Most years, this trail remains very wet and muddy through July.

Grebe Lake (via Norris-Canyon Road)
Round trip distance: 6 miles (9.7 km)
Estimated time: 3-4 hours
Level of difficulty: Moderately easy; little vertical rise
Trailhead: Trail begins 3.5 miles (5.6 km) west of Canyon Junction on the Norris Canyon Road
Trail Description: A more direct route to Grebe Lake, this trail follows an old fire road through meadows and forest, some of which was burned during the fires of 1988. Once at the lake, you can connect with the Howard Eaton Trail (see above).

Seven Mile Hole
Round trip distance: 11 miles (17.7 km)
Estimated time: 6-8 hours
Level of difficulty: Moderately difficult to strenuous
Trailhead: Trail begins at the Glacial Boulder trailhead on Inspiration Point Road
Trail Description: Following the Canyon Rim for the first 1.5 miles (2.4 km), you will be rewarded with views of Silver Cord Cascade. Continue north another 0.5 mile (0.8 km) to join the Washburn Spur Trail; at 3 miles (4.8 km), the trail drops off to Seven Mile Hole, a 1.5 mi (2.4 km), 1,400 foot (425 m) drop. Hike it carefully, watch your footing, and conserve your energy; depending on your condition and the weather, it can be a long hike back out. Be especially careful where the trail passes both dormant and active hot springs. Off-trail travel is prohibited. Not recommended for persons with heart and/or respiratory problems.

Washburn Trail & Spur Trail
One way distance: 11-1/2 miles (18.5 km)
Estimated time: 6-8 hours
Level of difficulty: Strenuous
Trailhead: Trail begins at the Washburn Trailhead, 4.5 miles north of Canyon Junction and ends at Glacial Boulder on Inspiration Point Road
Trail Description: Starting at the Washburn Trailhead at Dunraven Pass, you ascend Mt. Washburn on a trail complete with, in season, wildflowers, bighorn sheep, and spectacular views. After this three-mile ascent, the Washburn Spur Trail descends very steeply from the east side of the Fire Lookout to Washburn Hot Springs in an another 3.7 miles (6 km). Here, you will find some interesting thermal features, including mud pots. Continue past the turnoff to Seven Mile Hole and follow the trail to the Glacial Boulder and the Canyon area. Not recommended for persons with heart and/or respiratory problems.

North Rim Walks & Overlooks

Inspiration Point Trail: Park at the northernmost parking area on the North Rim Drive. More than 50 steps direct you down this moderately strenuous walk to an overlook and spectacular canyon views. Trail is closed in winter.

Grandview Point Trail: Park at the Grandview parking area. This is a very short paved walk to one of the most colorful views of the Canyon.

Grandview Pt.: To P Loop: Park at either end of the trail. About 1/2 mile (0.8 km) in length, this paved trail is especially pleasant in the early morning. Look for the sign at the P26 cabin or Grandview Point parking area.

Red Rock/Lookout Points: Park at the Lookout Point parking area. The paved trail to Red Rock drops 500 feet (150 m) in about 3/8 mile (0.6 km). Lookout Point, on the rim, offers essentially the same view of the Lower Falls as Red Rock, but does not get as close to the falls. Not recommended for those with heart, lung, or other health conditions. Trail is closed in winter and subject to closures in the spring and fall due to snow, ice, or other conditions.

Brink of the Lower Falls: Park at the southernmost parking area on the North Rim Drive. The 3/4 mile (1.2 km) walk along a paved trail drops about 600 feet (180 m) into the canyon to the brink of the 308-foot (93 m) Lower Falls. Not recommended for those with heart, lung, or other health conditions. Trail is closed in winter and subject to closures in the spring and fall due to snow, ice or other conditions. Check with rangers for trail information.

Brink of the Upper Falls: Park at the Upper Falls parking area. This is a 1/4 mile (0.4 km) round-trip walk, including numerous stairs, to the lip of the 109-foot (33 m) Upper Falls. Spring, fall, and winter visitors: Trail may be icy and/or snow-covered.

North Rim Trail: Portions of this trail are paved. Starting at the South Rim Drive bridge (also known as Chittenden Bridge), the first 1/2 mile (0.8 km) to the Upper Falls parking area takes the hiker close to the river, a beautiful and impressive torrent as it approaches the canyon. From slightly west of the Upper Falls parking area, the trail continues past Crystal Falls on Cascade Creek another 1/2 mile (0.8 km) to the Lower Falls parking area, then to Lookout Point (1/2 mile, 0.8 km), to Grandview Point (1/4 mile, 0.4 km), and finally to Inspiration Point (slightly more than 1 mile or 1.6 km). By trail, Inspiration Point is slightly more than 2 1/4 miles (3.6 km) from the Upper Falls parking area and slightly less than 3 miles (4.8 km) from the South Rim Drive bridge.

South Rim Walks & Overlooks

Uncle Tom's Trail: A short walk into the Canyon toward the base of the Lower Falls, Uncle Tom's trail is a very strenuous walk, dropping about 500 feet (150 m) over a series of more than 300 stairs and paved inclines. It is not recommended for people with heart, lung, or other health conditions. Much of the walk is constructed of perforated steel sheeting, so you should wear comfortable, flat-heeled walking shoes. Portions of the walk are often wet, which in the spring or fall or in the early morning, may create a film of ice. Please walk carefully. Trail is closed in winter and subject to closures in the spring and fall due to snow, ice, or other conditions.

Upper Falls: A short walk from the west side of Uncle Tom's parking area to view the Upper Falls. Handicapped accessible. Trail may be closed in winter.

South Rim Trail: Park at the large lot near the South Rim Drive bridge (Chittenden Bridge). This partially paved trail parallels the Canyon for 3 1/4 miles (5.2 km) to Point Sublime. Many striking viewpoints of both falls and the canyon can be reached on this trail, as well as access to Uncle Tom's Trail, Artist Point (1 3/4 miles, 2.8 km), and Lily Pad Lake.

Artist Point: Park at the Artist Point parking area. A short, scenic walk to longer views of the Lower Falls and the canyon in both directions. Handicapped accessible with assistance.

Clear Lake Trail: From the Uncle Tom's parking area, this trail takes the hiker through large rolling meadows and forested areas to Clear Lake (2 1/4 miles, 3.6 km). Get current information on trail conditions and bear activity from rangers at visitor centers.

Ribbon Lake Trail: From the Wapiti trailhead to Clear and Ribbon lakes, follow the markers for Clear Lake to the first junction, then turn right. At the second junction, turn left (north); Ribbon Lake is about 3/4 mile (1.2 km) farther. Trails also connect to Lily Pad Lake, Clear Lake, and the South Rim Trail. Get current information on trail conditions and bear activity from rangers at visitor centers.


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