By far the most picturesque part of Yellowstone National Park is the Grand Canyon area. In fact, we’ve taken a picture in the same spot every time we’ve visited since 2001. The photos show the growth of our family, even as our love for Yellowstone has remained constant. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, or Canyon Village area for short, is a great place to spend a day. There are several nice hikes, a few beautiful waterfalls, and the chance to see large mammals. Here are our suggestions of Things to do near Canyon in Yellowstone National Park.
Canyon is a major stop in the middle of the Yellowstone map. There are cabins, restaurants, gift shops, and ranger stations. We used to stay at Canyon every year, but the newer cabins are a bit more expensive, so we often make Canyon more of a place to spend most of a day. From Canyon you can head to three different areas of the park, so it does make a great place for easy access to other places in Yellowstone.
Canyon is on the edge of the mountains, and the Yellowstone River has cut a deep canyon as it heads south into Hayden Valley. Elk, buffalo, and the occasional moose can be seen around Canyon. The canyon walls are yellow, which is where Yellowstone received its name. The most important thing to do in the Canyon area, though, is visit the waterfalls.
North Rim Drive
A short drive behind Canyon Village takes you to two famous overlooks. North Rim Drive drives along the north side of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon. On this one-way drive, you can really see how Yellowstone gets its name. The steep canyon walls are bright yellow! The canyon is so deep that you can barely see tiny ribbons of water far below. The north rim trail walks along the canyon, but we enjoy driving and hopping out at the overlooks.
Brink of the Lower Falls
The first stop along the North Rim Drive is for Brink of Lower Falls. This is a steep drop to the top of the waterfall. Watching the water drop over the edge is amazing, and slightly terrifying. I always hold onto my kids hands a little tighter! The trail is 0.75 miles round trip, but it does drop 300 feet, so the climb back up can be challenging. The trail is mostly paved, and it has switchbacks to help with the steep climb.
Look Out Point
Our favorite stop along the way is Look Out Point. It is located on the north side of the river and offers a great look back on Lower Falls. The Yellowstone River cascades over 300 feet at this point. If you visit Yellowstone, it is definitely worth a photo. This stop does not involve any stairs, but you can access Red Rock Point which is a steep climb down to look at the waterfall with many stairs.
Make sure to look for the osprey nests at this stop. Look Out Point offers a great view of an Osprey nest. Many times you will spot them soaring on the canyon’s updrafts.
Grand View Point
As you drive around the one-way loop, there are other stops for views of the canyon, too. Grand View Point offers a beautiful look at the canyon, but does not have a view of the waterfall.
This is the furthest overlook on the North Rim, and from here you can barely see Lower Falls, but the panorama of the canyon and the drop down to the river are awe-inspiring. It has recently been redone, and we can’t wait to check it out this year.
Brink of Upper Falls
On your way to the South Rim of the Canyon area, make sure to stop at the brink of Upper Falls. This is more of an overlook than a trail, and it is much easier than the brink of Lower Falls. So if you can only handle one brink, this one is for you. The trail is flat and easy until right at the end there are about 20 stairs down to the overlook. Upper Falls isn’t quite as tall as Lower Falls, but the brink was beautiful and it created a gorgeous rainbow the day we were there. We also saw an osprey soaring around while we listened to the roar of the waterfall.
In order to reach the South Rim of the Canyon area, you will need to leave Canyon Village and head south toward Lake. A few miles down the road you will see a sign for South Rim Drive and Artist Point. Turn here to begin the South Rim drive.
At the far end of the South Rim drive lies Artist Point. The view of the waterfall is much the same, but you are much closer, and the cascade is beautifully framed by trees. This is where our family pictures have been taken. Even though the parking lot is almost always full and you have to wait your turn for a photo, Artist Point is worth the stop! The walk to Artist Point is paved and wheelchair accessible to the first overlook. The second overlook has stairs.
We mentioned a few trails in our South Rim/North Rim Drives above. There aren’t a lot of trails that we hike in this area. We usually enjoy the short walks to the overlooks, and admire the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
There is a longer hike to Ribbon Lake, but we didn’t love this hike as much as we’d hoped. The trail was full of bugs and the lake was hard to access. Many people will backpack to stay overnight at Ribbon Lake, though.
Canyon Visitor Education Center
This is one of the largest visitor centers in Yellowstone Park, so we like to walk through and talk about Yellowstone. It is also a great place to pick-up or drop off your Junior Ranger booklets. There are many rangers on duty.
Hayden Valley is listed on Canyon and Fishing Bridge/Lake areas because it is the valley that sits between them. So depending on where you start, make sure to take a drive through this area of the park. Hayden Valley has many pull-outs, and most of it lies along the Yellowstone River. We have seen many animals as we have driven through Hayden Valley including elk, grizzly bears, otters, buffalo, many bird species, and more.
Our Must-Do list of things to do near Canyon area:
Here is our must-do list of 5 things to do near Canyon, Yellowstone. Use these stops to enjoy this area of the park and to enjoy the beautiful Yellowstone Canyon.
- North Rim Drive: Don’t miss Brink of Lower Falls and Look Out Point
- Brink of Upper Falls
- Artist Point
- Canyon Visitor Education Center
- Hayden Valley
- Canyon Lodge & Cabins
- Campgrounds: Canyon Campground. This campground accepts reservations, so reserve early at Yellowstone National Park Lodges.
- Canyon Lodge Eatery
- Canyon Lodge Falls Cafe
- Canyon Lodge M66 Grill
- Canyon Washburn Lookout
- Canyon General Store Fountain & Grill (we love this spot)
- Canyon Lodge Ice Creamery (also a favorite)
- Canyon Lodge Gift Shop (souvenirs, not food)
Located at Canyon Village
Located at Canyon Lodge and Canyon Visitor Education Center.
Visit our Yellowstone page to find information about seven other areas in the park and to find helpful tips for visiting. Some posts you might be interested in:
This Post Has 2 Comments
I LOVE the family pictures thru the years! So fun! Growing up, my family did the same thing, but at the Knott’s Berry Farm train every year. Thank you for this post and all the others. I have a fourth grader next year and I cant wait to get to Yellowstone!
It is so fun to have traditions! I love Knott’s Berry Farm, but haven’t been there since I was a teenager. You will love Yellowstone.