Yellowstone Discovery: Grand Canyon

Erosion, volcanism, and other geologic forces led to this colorful ‘yellow stone’ canyon

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone lies just south of Mt. Washburn (our last virtual stop) and east of Norris Geyser Basin. The canyon is hands down one of the most scenic spots on our planet.

This twenty mile canyon tells a geologic story of volcanism, erosion, and forces of nature. While scientists are not fully aware of the canyon’s origins – it is believed that the canyon as we know it today is a fairly recent geologic feature dating no more than 10,000 to 14,000 years ago. However there has probably been a canyon in the area for a much longer time.

The canyon was constructed by thermal activity in the area – rhyolite flows on the canyon wall verify this. The canyon was cut by the force of the mighty Yellowstone River.

The Yellowstone River runs 692 miles from its headwaters at in Yellowstone to it’s terminus in North Dakota. The Yellowstone River is the largest undammed river in the US.

The Yellowstone River is a canyon cutter – from the dramatic Grand Canyon to Tower Fall – the mighty Yellowstone is an architect sculpting edifices in stone.

The Grand Canyon is steep and jagged – crooked trees manage to grow on the canyon walls and birds like Osprey use the canyon wall for their nests.

The Grand Canyon provides visitors with dozens of fantastic view points along the Northern and Southern Rim drives. Each provides a unique perspective and ‘ooh ahh’ for canyon pilgrims.

Arguably the most famous vantage is Artist Point, where renowned artist and Hayden Expedition member, Thomas Moran painted the Canyon in 1871. His portrayal helped convince Congress to declare YNP as the world’s first national park.

My view of Artist Point

This view gives you an unobstructed view of the meandering zig zag of the Canyon and the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River.

The Lower Falls are the larger of the falls in the canyon. The Lower Falls cascade over 308 feet – a breathtaking marvel of nature.

Tips: I recommend stopping by the Canyon Visitor Center before you start your canyon excursion.

This visitor center is AMAZING – it has the best interactive exhibit on Yellowstone’s volcanic history in the park and digs deep into the natural and geologic history of the Canyon area.

The rangers on site can provide you with insight on the best vantage points, area trails and safety information.

Speaking of safety – BE CAREFUL – If the sign says danger – then it is dangerous – many have fallen to their deaths at canyon simply because they ignored the rules and took an extra step trying to get a picture – it was a fatal mistake!

If you have time I recommend spending at least half a day at Canyon – there are tons of great hikes and dozens of vantage points to explore.

The Canyon area has several dining options and a General Store/Gas Station to refuel for your next leg of the journey.

One of the best, but also most dangerous hikes (I had a mini meltdown once because it is very harrowing if you have a fear of heights) is the Uncle Tom’s Trail. It gets you up close and personal with the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone. But you will have to walk up and down around 500+ steps

The Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River in the canyon are equally stunning:

Canyon is probably the busiest tourism stop outside of Old Faithful – there is limited parking and people can get intense about their photos – I recommend going to Canyon very early in the day or later in the afternoon. It will still be busy – but not overwhelming.

The Grand Canyon the Yellowstone will take a piece of your heart. As a person of faith I always enjoy sitting in the stillness here and allowing the Holy Spirit to lead me.

Happy Travels…

Next up will be heading west along the Grand Loop Road to Norris Geyser Basin.

We will then be exploring the Lower Loop with highlights like: Madison, Lower and Upper Geyser Basins, Lake, the Hayden Valley and beyond!

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