Yellowstone Vacation, part 4: the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone winds through the scenic park

On our second full day in Yellowstone National Park, we picked up where we left off the previous day, and sought to check out the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Originally, our plan had been to hike the entire South Rim and North Rim, from Artist’s Point all the way back to our Lodge, which would have been about 12 miles total, or a nice full day’s hike. But, the park had other plans for us: multiple trails along the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (the entire South Rim Trail, Inspiration Point, Uncle Tom’s Trail) were all closed for trail maintenance during our visit, so we re-evaluated and decided we’d rather use the time to check out some of the other park attraction instead of trying to piece together a broken hike.

Instead, we stopped by car at the Canyon viewpoints that were open (Brink of the Upper Falls, Brink of the Lower Falls, and Artist’s Point) and can I just say: wow.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

With the rest of our day wide open, we decided to check out what the rest of the upper section of the Grand Loop Road had to offer. We started with a stop at Tower Falls, another pretty waterfall, though after seeing the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in the morning, I can’t say that it could really compete.

Tower Falls, in Yellowstone National Park

Tower Falls, in Yellowstone National Park

Along the way, we were treated to many of the interesting rock formations in the park, as well as gorgeous views from points further down the Canyon carved out by the Yellowstone River.

This section of road is called the "Golden Gate" of Yellowstone.

This section of road is called the “Golden Gate” of Yellowstone.

After the Tower region, we headed north towards Mammoth Hot Springs and the Northern entrance of the park. Having had quite enough of the “park cuisine” (I’d equate most of the inns and dining rooms to eating at Texas Roadhouse for every meal…), we decided to grab lunch in Gardiner, Montana and got some delicious thin crust pizza and local beers at KBar Pizza.

The Roosevelt Arch, at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park

The Roosevelt Arch, at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park

Returning to the park, we got to visit the famed Roosevelt Arch, bearing the dedication of Yellowstone Park: “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Just a bit further down the road, we encountered the Mammoth Hot Springs, where we toured the upper and lower basins. And I gotta say…of all the attractions in Yellowstone, this was the only one that I felt was underwhelming. The vast majority of Mammoth appears to be dried up, leaving just one impressive feature, the Mound Spring. Overall, if you’re on a tight itinerary through Yellowstone, I’d say you’d be ok skipping the Mammoth area altogether.

One of the only remaining active features at Mammoth Hot Springs

One of the only remaining active features at Mammoth Hot Springs

Continuing along Grand Loop Road, we encountered plenty of lovely scenery until we eventually arrived at the Norris Geyser Basin. Norris was the final geyser basin that we had yet to check out in the park, and as Steamboat Geyser, the largest geyser in all of Yellowstone at 3x the height of Old Faithful has suddenly started erupting on a semi-regular basis, we felt the need to stop by. Unfortunately, Steamboat didn’t blow it’s top while we were at Norris, but we did enjoy getting to see the many other thermal features on display there.

Norris Geyser Basin was the final set of thermal features we saw in Yellowstone

Norris Geyser Basin was the final set of thermal features we saw in Yellowstone

The next morning, it was time to head out of the park, and so we headed out the West park entrance into the satellite community of West Yellowstone. With this exit, we had not only completed 90% of the Grand Loop Road, that goes throughout the park, but also visited all four entry points: South entrance upon our original entry, to the East entrance and back while looking for wildlife in Lamar Valley, North entrance to lunch in Gardiner, Montana, and East Entrance to bid the park adieu. Not bad for only 2.5 days total in Yellowstone!

I hope you’ve enjoyed our recap of the our trip. If you’d like to look back on any of the earlier posts, here they are:

Whitney