History of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone


Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Photo by Jeff Vangua

The most breathtaking sight inside Yellowstone Park is the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Twenty miles long, the canyon is up to 4,000-feet wide and 1,200-feet deep in places.

Charles Cook explored the area in 1869, and is credited with discovering the canyon. According to Lee Whittlesey’s Yellowstone Place Names, Cook was said to have commented: “I sat there in amazement, while my companions came up, and after that, it seemed to me that it was five minutes before anyone spoke.”

The canyon, located below Lower Falls, is in a former geyser basin created by rhyolite lava flows, heat and faulting. Chemical and heat action resulted in hydrothermal changes that today can be seen in the form of active geysers and hot springs. It is believed that at the end of the last glacial period melting ice dams at the mouth of Yellowstone Lake caused catastrophic flooding and erosion that led to the formation of the canyon as it exists today.

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48 Responses

  1. Amazing!

    YellowstonefanAugust 4, 2011 @ 3:52 am
  2. Yes yellowcarl borgwardtstone is always amazing what GOD gave us to enjoy!!!!!!!!!

    carl borgwardtAugust 27, 2011 @ 2:48 am
  3. would love to visit . . . my husband went years ago

  4. went with friends Labor Day 2011 stayed for a week it was amazing, also went to the Grand Tetans awsome

    Peggy PeakeOctober 3, 2011 @ 1:34 pm
  5. Yellowstone is gorgeous, a sight for everyone to see. Adventure out and actually see it, don’t spend all your time on the “tourist attractions” 90% of yellowstone is unseen by most visitors. take advantage of that fact, and see things that most people never will, take the trails, it’s all worth it.

  6. We will be at yellowstone next year in the spring. Can we drive to this location or is it reached by a hike?

    Donna HarmonOctober 24, 2011 @ 4:45 pm
  7. My wife and I spent four days in the TeTons and Yellowstone in October 2011. We took over 1000 pictures and still didn’t get to see all of the park. It is the most amazing place we have ever been in our lives!

    Ed & Marti MinnickOctober 31, 2011 @ 8:38 pm
  8. You can drive pretty close to this point and others along the canyon. Hikes of various lengths (all fairly short but remember this is at about 7,000 ft above sea level) are necessary to get to the viewing areas. Allow plenty of time!

    Mike HenggelerJanuary 16, 2012 @ 10:29 pm
  9. can’t wait to go this Sept!!

  10. Its just gorgeous. I have been at least 5 times and still yearn to go back and experience it all again and again. You never get to see it all because it is constantly changing especially from season to season. I started out with my parents when I was a child of 6 or 7 and have been over and over again. God willing I will go again this Spring before the crowd starts to move in and just enjoy nature and its bounty to the very fullest. I never get enough of it!! You can’t deny the existence of a God when you have seen the wonders of Yellowstone and all that it involves.

    Susan A. WolfeJanuary 24, 2012 @ 3:04 pm
  11. If you have not been there go , its an amazing place !!!

  12. We are planning a trip for July….will be our first trip…any and all suggestions are welcome…..

  13. MY wife and I are planning a trip, the year 2013.Is it best to go in the spring before the crowds start comming or in the fall when the crowds start to leave.We rather it be less crowded. We like taking pictures of animals and nature in thier natural environment.Weather permitted!

    Herb Smith

  14. We are planning a trip for med-June. Been 25 years for me, always wanted to go back. So excited!

  15. We too are planning a trip, and we have similar questions to yours. Did anyone write you back with answers? Please let me know.

    Chuck StankoFebruary 20, 2012 @ 12:33 pm
  16. Hi both – my pal and I are coming over from England Sept 2012 and have allocated three weeks to see Yellowstone, Teton and other sights in Wyoming. We can’t wait!

  17. I rented a house and a condo in Teton Village for two weeks in July 2012.
    My family (Fifteen of us) went white water rafting in Snake River, hiked trails and visited Yellowstone (including the Falls and Canyon for three days). Wildlife was abundant.
    There were fifteen of us and we enjoyed every minute of it.
    This was our third vacation in the Tetons and Yellowstone.
    Keith – February 21, 2012

  18. This Canyon is a MUST SEE, only a short hike from parking for those who cannot walk far. It is amazing! I have a great photo of this as my screen saver. I had expected geyers but not so many wonderful waterfalls, rivers and lakes within the park. I do recommend going in the fall after the crowds are over, cooler weather etc, very relaxing. We are returning this summer with our granddaughter, based on her schedule,so she can experience it too. She is looking forward to the animals! We saw hundreds of bison as well as elk, wolves, moose, black bear and many smaller animals (no grizzlies) and birds. Take your time (cannot do this in one day)stop, get out of your car(except when surrounded by bison-not a good idea) walk or hike and look at all the beauty around you. We also highly recommend a float on the Snake River in the Tetons, it is awesome.
    Thanks to all our Teton and Yellowstone park rangers and volunteers who work so hard to keep things safe and make these wonderful parks accessible for everyone to enjoy.

  19. Plan several days to see the park. If the date is not set, I would plan goin in the fall it is less crowded and less expensive for loging. The east(left) loop of the park is more green, rivers, marsh etc. Very pretty and relaxing. Lamar Valley is a great place to see bison herds. The West loop is more geyers and individual or small groups of bison up close. Take/wear layers because the weather can be unpreditable. Be prepared with sunscreen during the summer. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. We usually take one change of clothes in the car just in case we get wet or muddy! We stayed in Jackson Hole area and drove back and forth which we both enjoyed due to the scenery in both parks. You can also stay in West Yellowstone for shorter day trips or Gardiner- there are loging options ranging from small motels to cabins to luxury hotels, take your pick. Yellowstone, West Yellowstone and Jackson Hole offers horseback riding, chuckwagon dinners and you can also take a short stagecoach ride in Yellowstone. BAR J in Jackson is great,they are very talented musicians (reservations a must) Float or white water rafting available in many places around Yellowstone. If you have plenty of time many outfitters offer 3/4 day horseback, wagon or even lama pack trips. Online searching is your best bet and pick up maps, books at AAA if you are a member. They also do a trip tik as the date nears so you know what roads in or around the parks are under construction. Hotel staff are usually good sources of information if they live in the area. The manager where we stayed recommeded a particular drive which we enjoyed and would not have know about. Go to http://www.nps.gov/yell and nps.gov/grte (grand teton)for more information.
    Take a digital camera for those thousands of photos you will want as well as binoculars or a spotting scope. We like to picnic but there are many places, various price ranges, within the park to eat, most next to the Yellowstone lodges & hotels. There is a great pizza place right on Yellowstone Lake-pizza with a view!( think it was at Lake Lodge) I liked that they were off the main road, almost hidden by trees, etc so they do not spoil the view, except at Old Faithful.
    Got to http://www.nps.gov/yell for maps of each porton of the loops and they will show where food and shops are on each section.
    My biggest recommendation: DO NOT APPROACH THE BISON!!!!!!!!!! They may look slow and clumsy but are very dangerous and kill more people than grizzlies due to people getting too close and in their space! You can see them and photograph them from a distance just fine.
    Have a wonderful time.

  20. Yellowstone is amazing! We spent 4 days in Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks and that was not enough. We are going back again this year. We saw the main attractions but there is so much more to see. We loved taking the boat cruises on both Yellowstone Lake and Jackson Lake. They were wonderful!

  21. You are so right, Susan, God is the supreme artist and creator – He has given us such a wonderful banquet of food, nature, vegetion and sights to see. Some sunsets take my breath away.

  22. view is from artist point

  23. Make 2 trips each year…mid May and early October. Best times to see the animals and less traffic since on the cold side—yep, take snow boots LOL! TAKE YOUR TIME! Have had fools blow past me missing animals since not really LOOKING. Last year had everyone watching bison herd on east side of the road….older gent walked up to me to ask why I had my binocs trained to the west. Invited him to join me on my truck’s tailgate to watch a grisley bear finish off a yearling deer in less than 30 minutes—-always look carefully around the fringes of prey animals for predators waiting for their chance!!! Gentleman learned that this isn’t a zoo—you have to actually LOOK for the animals and can’t rush that or will miss seeing them. Enjoy your visit at a leisurely pace and you’ll be rewarded with sights you may never see again 😉

  24. If you are going to be in the area for three weeks, you should spend some time at Glacier National Park in Montana. Many people think that it is the most spectacular of all the great western parks.

  25. hiii

    LOLZNYANCATApril 23, 2012 @ 1:29 pm
  26. oh hai

    LOLZNYANCATApril 23, 2012 @ 1:30 pm
  27. My husband & I are planning our first trip. All these
    comments sound so wonderful. Does anyone have info on
    camping? We are driving an RV. Would appreciate it.
    Thanks, Sandy Hoskins
    Cincinnati, Ohio

    sandy hoskinsApril 24, 2012 @ 5:44 am
  28. Thank-you for all of this information! I am planning a trip with my children the end of June through the first week of July. I have only traveled through (admiring from a distance)-always wanting to return to stay a while. The tips you have shared are very useful. I am concerned with the price of lodging with a family. Any suggestions? I have considered staying in Jackson….

  29. Can’t wait to see this wonder of nature!
    In August we’ll admire it.
    Ted and Gea from The Netherlands

    Ted CillessenMay 9, 2012 @ 7:27 am
  30. Maybe I’ll see you there. My husband and I are celebrating 30 years together and we will be up around the same time doing the same. I can’t wait…counting down the days! :)

    lkaschkeMay 9, 2012 @ 11:25 am
  31. it is amazing….also a breath-taking place is Yosemite NP in clifornia,,, guess it is my favorate since i grew up there… all of the NP are wonderful for one reson or another. from luch tree covered mountains to sand dunes, each hs it’s own beuty and they are all wonderful in their own way. would hate to just see one type of national park nd miss out on so much other beauty.

    CHARLENEMay 12, 2012 @ 2:45 pm
  32. If you’ve got a large unit, you’ll only be able to camp at Fishing Bridge, near Grant Village — south end of Yellowstone. Call Yellowstone’s concessionaire, Xanterra, at their toll-free number (866-439-7375) for hotel and camping reservations. Xanterra will also be able to give you the phone number for campgrounds in Yellowstone that do not require reservations (first-come, first-serve), but for test camping only. Hope this helps. Research online for places within Yellowstone to visit, etc. Enjoy.

  33. The best all-inclusive travel book on Yellowstone is: YELLOWSTONE TREASURES, by Janet Chapple. If you can’t get this book at the library I highly recommend you purchase it before your trip. Been to Yellowstone three times and we refer to it before and during our travels in Yellowstone National Park. This book, however, does not include reviews or contact information on lodging or restaurants. Have a wonderful trip!

  34. We are planning a trip Sept 2013, probably will look for a cabin to stay in between parks, unless there is a better alternative. I did download Yellowstone Treasures as recommended above. Its on my Pad. Great book! Thanks for the hints.

  35. will be in Jackson for three days and then off to Gardiner Mt. for two days,never been to either place could use some ideas of what is the best to do with our time. Thanks, will be my husband,daughter and her to girls a teenager and a five year old.

  36. We would like very much to be of service to you.

    We have several openings during the dates you mentioned.

    Almost all of our booking arrangements and expedition planning is conducted via telephone.

    In light of that please contact us by telephone at your earliest convenience.

    You can call us any time, if know one answers please leave a message.

    (307) 733-5171 or (307) 749-5171

    We hope to here from you soon!

    Galloway Clover
    Wilderness Trails Inc.
    P.O. Box 3700 Jackson, WY 83001
    (307) 733-5171 or (307) 749-5171
    Please visit us online @ http://www.WildernessTrailsInc.com
    (c) 2012 All Rights Reserved.

    Vacation Information From Wilderness Trails Inc.‏

  37. My family is visiting Yellowstone this July for the first time and would like to do a little white water rafting. We are staying in West Yellowstone during our trip. Can anyone recommend a reputable rafting company to us? Thank you!

    Kim EricksonJune 13, 2012 @ 8:27 pm
  38. We are going for 3 days with my parents and 3 year old daughter. What do you recommend doing?

    meenakshiJune 20, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

    LORETTA COLVINJune 23, 2012 @ 5:41 pm
  40. Kim
    My family went whitewater rafting in the smokey mints last year and our guide recommend several places for our trip this year. It really depends on the area and since you are staying near the west entrance Montana whitewater rafting company is the recommendation for that side Book ahead though you can find them on line and check to see how close you are. We will be using them in July because we also want to go zip lining and they are the only company that doesn’t do it from a telephone pole, even though it will be a 3 hour drive from where we are staying

  41. I will be tent camping and I will need electricity and would like access to a bathroom and shower.
    I was wondering which of the camping sites would be best for me. I am a senior citizen and have a National Parks senior card.
    Thank you.
    Oh yes, I would also like to receive the travel packet.

    Carl Sparrow Sr.July 4, 2012 @ 8:38 am
  42. We will be there in September celebrating our anniversary also! This is our second trip and my husband’s favorite of all the National Parks.

  43. we will be visiting Yellowstone, and I was wondering if you could tell me where is the best place to visit.. we are only going to stay a day…I would like to see the waterfalls, where do you suggest.. thank you..

  44. My wife and I visited Yellowstone N.P on the 12th -19th of August 2012.
    We were overwhelmed by it’s beauty.
    What we liked best was the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
    We walked all the trails around it.
    The Red Rock trail we did twice.
    The second time early in the morning when the sun was coming up and illuminating the falls!
    It’s a long climb back (we’re both over 65)but the reward you get down there is worth it!

    Gea and Ted Cillessen,NetherlandsSeptember 5, 2012 @ 11:33 pm
  45. Hi ,

    I could not agree with you more.

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