South Rim

Yellowstone
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South Rim

Distance: 2.8mi
Elevation: 656ft
Time: 1.5-2.5h

Difficulty Rating:

The South Rim is our favorite way to view the incredible Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, providing a variety of stunning views back to the falls. Descending on Uncle Tom's Trail is a spectacular trip down near the Lower Falls. You simply must do this hike if in Yellowstone.

Getting there

From Canyon Village, head south on Grand Loop Road for 3.4km. Turn left on South Rim Drive and proceed for 1.0km and turn left into the parking lot.

About

When to do

June through October

Backcountry Campsites

No

Toilets

At Parking Lot

Family friendly

Yes

Route Signage

Average

Crowd Levels

Extreme

Route Type

Out and back


Elevation


Detailed Description

This is an exceptional hike, and offers the option to extend by linking up with the hike from Artist Point to Sublime Point. Take care with children, as this hike has cliffs that are not protected by fences. Also, don’t go too close to the edge of cliffs, as these are constantly crumbling.

From the parking lot walk towards the toilets and take the path heading off to the left, into the trees. This path will stretch through the forest and take you to a fine view of Upper Yellowstone Falls. From here you’ll leave the ridge top and walk through forest until you reach a junction with Uncle Tom’s Trail. This trail is a steep metal stairway descent to a viewpoint near the base of the Lower Yellowstone Falls.

Don’t head down Uncle Tom’s Trail just yet. Instead, continue ahead along the trail and through the forest. The trail is dangerous, thus be sure to take care. You’ll come to repeated viewpoints that provide exceptional scenery up and down the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Prepare to be overwhelmed.
After 1.9km you will come to the parking lot for Artist Point – a must-see while in Yellowstone. You can continue along the parking lot and take in the Artist Point and then remain on the trail along to Point Sublime, however that makes a longer day than some would like.

Return from Artist Point along the same path. The scenery is just as spectacular as you get views of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the falls.

Now is the time to descend to Uncle Tom’s Trail. This is a steep, vertigo-inducing staircase. Go slow, hold the handrail and don’t try to take photos while walking. The views from here are amongst the most spectacular in Yellowstone, and improve as you descend.

There is a small viewing area at the bottom of the trail, after which is the steep climb out. Once back at the trail, head right and return to your car.

Insider Hints

  • Save Uncle Tom's Trail for the end, it's the highlight.

  • You can combine this trail with the hike from Artist Point to Point Sublime.

  • Head over to Canyon Village afterwards for a celebratory ice cream at the Canyon Village General Store.

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