Canyon Country, Yellowstone National Park
Fast Facts




Yellowstone Nat’l Park
Wyoming 82190
Horseback Riding
Natural Wonder
Points of Interest Nearby
Family Travel Tips

Bighorn Sheep


Photo by Miller, courtesy of National Park Service

The swath of Yellowstone known as Canyon is a must see for families. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is one of the most picturesque points in Yellowstone National Park. Hayden Valley is one of the top spots for viewing wildlife. Mt. Washburn is the most accessible of Yellowstone's towering peaks. And while hydrothermal activity, earthquakes and explosions have colored and shaped ancient layers of rock - Mt. Washburn is a result of volcanic activity and the colors at Grand Canyon of Yellowstone are a result of 'cooked' iron in rhyolite - the surface of this section of the park has little to do with underground heat. Glaciers shaped the ancient lakebed known as Hayden Valley and deposited the soil that makes this area a supreme wildlife habitat. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, but 10,000 years in the making, was formed by the natural process called erosion. The Yellowstone River created the canyon and falls. The only geysers and hot springs are on the canyon floor.
Getting There
Yellowstone's Canyon District stretches from Chittenden Road to Hayden Valley along Grand Loop Drive. Canyon Village is located on North Rim Drive. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is accessible from North Rim and South Rim drives. The Mt. Washburn trailhead is accessible from Chittenden Road. Grand Loop Road traverses Hayden Valley. The two-lane road from Fishing Bridge to Canyon is open to wheeled vehicles mid-April 15 through October and oversnow vehicles late December through early March. The road from Tower Junction to Canyon is accessible in two stages; the stretch from Tower Junction to Tower Falls opens first and closes last.
Getting Around
There are two ways to experience the Canyon area of Yellowstone: hike and drive. The viewpoints and overlooks on North Rim and South Rim drives offer sweeping views of the canyon, river and falls. The turnouts and scenic overlooks on Grand Loop Road offer an opportunity to take in the splendor of Yellowstone's highest pass as well as watch wildlife roadside in Hayden Valley. There are a variety of hiking trails in Canyon and, in winter, several are open to cross-country skiers. As with all Yellowstone trails, they vary in length and grade. The following hiking trails are ideal for families. The easy North Rim Trail is 4 miles (6.4 km) one-way from Inspiration Point to Chittenden Bridge. This flat, partially paved trail can be walked in whole or in part. South Rim Trail is an easy 2-mile (3.2 km) trek on a flat, paved path. The trail flanks the south rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from Chittenden Bridge to Uncle Tom's Trail. Clear Lake Trail may not offer may not offer panoramic vistas but this easy 2 ¼-mile (3.6 km) hike traverses rolling meadows and pine forests and offers a chance to spot wildlife. Chittenden Road Trail, 6 miles roundtrip to Mt. Washburn, affords spectacular views, complete with telescopes, as well as a chance to spot bighorn sheep. This trail is moderately strenuous. Uncle Tom's Trail is graded strenuous and while it is far from ideal for families with young kids it is a great hike for families with teens. This trek to the base of the Lower Falls has a 500-foot (150m) drop on 300 metal steps. NB: There are no guardrails on Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone trails. Check trail openings with park rangers before venturing out. Be bear aware. Maintain a safe distance from all wildlife, 100 yards (91m) from bears and wolves and 25 yards (23m) from all other animals. Be sure to pull your car off the roadway when parking roadside.
Things to Keep in Mind
Canyon Village has one hotel and one campground. A ranger station, service station, restaurant and general store are also located in Canyon Village. The Canyon horseback riding stables are located south of Canyon Village on Grand Loop Road. There is no food or water at trailheads. There is little reprieve from the sun on boardwalks and trails. Pack water and snacks. Wear sunscreen and hats. Junior ranger booklets are available for purchase ranger at stations throughout the park. A fishing permit is required for all Yellowstone anglers. Permits are required for backcountry camping.
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