The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Our first morning in Yellowstone (Saturday, if you're following along) started out quiet, but soon got more exciting. No, I'm not talking about the heart-straining uphill bike ride back to camp from the visitor center -- we went for a hike at one of Yellowstone's most impressive attractions: "The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone". Often just referred to as "The Canyon".


We had heard the distant rumble of what had to be a waterfall the night before, and were only two minutes into our hike when we saw the source: the upper falls.

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I want to point out a few things before we get any further. First, there is access to both the south and north rims of this canyon here. The north rim lets you visit the "brinks" of the two falls, so you can get right down next to the tops of them. The south rim seemed to have the better views, confirmed by the ranger who answered without hesitation "south" when I asked which to choose if we could only visit one rim.

Second, there was a pretty good smokey haze this morning, evidence that forest fires were "in the area". Forest fires are a natural part of the forest cycle in the park, as there are fires every summer. While we were here there were 4 or 5 fires burning, and smoke from fires to the west in Idaho was contributing to the haze this morning too. So these photos aren't as clear as they could have been.

So back to the falls...

Although I could sit and enjoy the deep rumble of almost any waterfall for hours, we knew there was much more to come, so continued on. Even looking to the right (downriver) gave us a hint of bigger things:


There were amazing views into the canyon every 5 minutes or so as we made the roughly 1-mile hike from the upper falls to "Artist's Point". Sometimes there were designated viewpoints complete with benches and railings, but the views from the trail were quite nice too.


Soon we had our first look at the lower falls:


The lower falls are about triple the height of the upper falls, and we couldn't yet see the bottom of them. We could see the people at the "brink" on the north rim though:


Although seeing them from that close was probably impressive, I'm glad we had chosen the south rim.

Amazing views continued as we followed the trail:






The views of the lower falls got better as we moved further away from them:


Falls are just to the left in this pano:


I loved the lush green of the area that enjoyed the constant spray of the falls:


What astounded me most was that walking this trail you had this wonderful forest view on one side:



Then you turned around and saw this:


Almost too much for my raised-in-the-midwest brain to handle! Need to sit down... head spinning...

Maybe that was the thinner air which I still hadn't fully acclimated to, and not being overwhelmed by beauty. Nevertheless, resting is good...


...especially when on lichen-covered rock walls!

Remember that this was our first day out of the RV in the park, so this was my first up-close view of the forest. Those fires I talked about earlier? Most of the time those fire-killed trees are left to fall on their own -- there were dead trees everywhere, which was disheartening.

More encouraging was the fact that there are so many young trees growing everywhere, at all stages of development!





Back to the main sights though:





Those saplings will grow anywhere:


Is there even any soil here? Oh, and you're just inches away from a several hundred-foot drop too little trees!

The colors of the canyon walls kept changing as we made our way to "Artist's Point", which had a necessarily large viewing area, as there was a parking lot down here which is how most people viewed this canyon apparently -- it was packed with cars, busses, and RVs!


The colors were spectacular, and there was a great view of the river and now-distant falls:




(By the time we had made it to Artist's Point the winds had picked up, clearing out a lot of the smoke haze. Unfortunately the sun was much higher in the sky so although the photos are clearer, the lighting is more harsh. Ah well.)


Is this where the park got its name?:


Stones that are quite yellow... I'll have to read more about this. Lots of other colors though, so not sure why they would have focused on the yellow.


On the hike back I took a few more shots from better vantage points.



We made a great choice for the first "feature" to see in Yellowstone, didn't we?

(This was only the first amazing thing we saw this day -- more to come!)

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Susan in the Pink Hat  – (September 1, 2013 at 1:37 PM)  

My favorite place to be! I've gone to Yellowstone about every year of my life. The canyon's colors are indeed where the park got its name. I would recommend a trip to Mammoth; it's often overlooked, being so far north, and go to Lake for an afternoon. There's a spot called Pelican Point. It's just about my favorite place in the whole world.

Sylvanna B  – (September 1, 2013 at 11:31 PM)  

The canyon is beautiful. Here in the Pacific NW, I am continually overwhelmed and spoiled by constant beauty.

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