Uncle Tom’s Trail Hike to Lower Falls in Yellowstone

yellowstone-hike-uncle-toms-trail

A park visitor hikes out on Uncle Tom’s Trail after taking in the spectacular view.

Uncle Tom’s Trail is a wonderful trail that takes you from the top of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone to the base of the 308-foot-high Lower Falls. You can almost always see a rainbow cutting through the falls’ powerful splash and mist. Tackling the 328 steps on the way down is a breeze–just remember that you have to come back up. But don’t worry. There are many benches and steel platforms to rest upon while covering the roughly 500 vertical feet.

Once in the Yellowstone’s Canyon area, take the Artist Point Road and park your vehicle in the parking lot at Artist Point. Look for the sign for Uncle Tom’s Trail. You first descend down a couple paved switchbacks before you reach the steel grate steps.

The History of Uncle Tom’s Trail

 

Uncle Tom's Trail in 1905 when "Uncle Tom" would give his canyon tour

Uncle Tom’s Trail in 1905 when “Uncle Tom” would give his canyon tour

Not only does the rich landscape of Yellowstone National Park tell the story of a changed and changing world, but relics of the past are evidence of the many individuals who were touched by the landscape’s beauty and made their mark on the park in return.

Quite a few of the individuals instrumental in Yellowstone’s early history had a streak of eccentricity running through their veins. After all, they lived in a rugged and untamed land without modern amenities.

Among these many characters stands H.F. Richardson, a former Bozeman, Mont. resident. Known as “Uncle Tom” to his contemporaries, Richardson built a trail deep into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. In the late 1890s the National Park Service granted him a permit to ferry tourists across the Yellowstone River and then lead them along the canyon’s south rim to the base of the Lower Falls. There, guests would enjoy a picnic lunch before turning back.

The trip was not for the faint of heart, requiring ropes and rope ladders to offer a measure of safety and prevent guests from tumbling off the steep canyon walls.

“It was a pretty difficult climb for most people,” Yellowstone National Park historian Lee Whittlesey told Chronicle Outdoors. “He would bring pins for the ladies to pin up their dresses to make the hiking easier.”

Richardson’s endeavors were rather short lived, however, lasting only for the seven-year duration between 1898 and 1905. The NPS’s construction of the Chittenden Bridge in 1903 largely contributed to the end of his business.


http://mms.nps.gov/yell/features/canyontour/uncletom.htm
http://chronicleoutdoors.com/2011/07/28/uncle-tom%E2%80%99s-trail-hike-into-grand-canyon-of-the-yellowstone-a-trip-through-history/

Comment Feed

6 Responses

  1. Hiked this trail today for the first time. I have noticed it all my life, but never had the guts to try it. It’s spectacular! Do follow the advice to go slowly on the return climb, and take water. Your mouth dries out in a hurry when your trying to catch your breath.

    Patty LuzziAugust 18, 2011 @ 10:13 pm
  2. Agreed. Didn’t see this posting before I did the hike. So, it seemed easy at first (so of course I thought the sign was wrong aout it eing strenous). I quickly found out that the sign was right and I was wrong. The view was great! However, without water and being out of shape…it was the last thing I did today!!! I’ve reccovered and am ready to do another hike tomorrow!

    First Time VisitorJuly 14, 2012 @ 8:18 pm
  3. Yeah, read the sign before going down the stairs, rather than collapsing in front of it, gasping for breath. Like I did.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. […] down Uncle Tom’s Trail to the bottom of the Lower […]

  2. […] down Uncle Tom’s Trail to the bottom of the Lower […]

  3. […] Point“. Everything we saw was just beautiful. We hiked an amazing trail called “Uncle Tom's Trail“. It was over 300 steps down to this magnificent view of the falls! And even better, there […]