Yellowstone Park Wildlife Guide

Uncle Tom’s Trail

yellowstone-hike-uncle-toms-trail

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

Enjoy 1,300 miles of trails in Yellowstone Park. Be sure to take precautions in bear country, and also to tell someone about where you plan to hike and when you plan to return. Uncle Tom’s Trail is easy on the way down but challenging on the way back.

When it comes to roadside attractions, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is Yellowstone’s most breathtaking wonder.


Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon is about 20 miles long, and stretches from the Upper Falls to Tower Fall. The canyon is 1,500-4,000 feet across, and its walls are 800-1,200 feet deep. It’s an awe-inspiring sight to look across or down this canyon.

The canyon itself offers more than enough intrigue. But the colors of the canyon and the waterfalls that tumble into it are also extraordinary.

The following short hike is a great one.

Uncle Tom’s Trail is a wonderful trail that takes you from the top of the Canyon 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.

Once in the 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. This hike is a half-mile downhill effort that takes you down a couple paved switchbacks before you hit your first of about 300 steel grate steps constructed by the National Park Service that will take you down, down, down.

“Uncle” Tom Richardson first constructed Uncle Tom’s Trail in 1898. Uncle Tom led visitors across the river near Chittenden Bridge and along a rough trail to the base of the waterfall. Today Uncle Tom’s Trail is very different from the simple trail used by Mr. Richardson.

You’ll lose 500 feet of elevation as you walk down the 300-plus steps. The effort is worth it!

The return trip is more strenuous – for obvious reasons. Drink some water and stop often to look at the views. This hike gives you a close-up view of the rock spires and “hoodoo” formations that make up the canyon’s walls. There are a couple benches and “resting spots” that didn’t end up there by accident. Stop often and give your legs a rest.

 

Trailhead: From Canyon Junction, drive just over 2 miles toward Fishing Bridge. Turn left on Artist Point Road and continue about a half of a mile to Uncle Tom’s parking area, on the left Distance: 1 mile, roundtrip Elevation Gain: 500 feet Difficulty: Easy going down, tough coming up. Time required: 1 hour, tops Notes: Probably those of you without a healthy heart and lungs should forego this hike and enjoy the many great views of the canyon from the rim.

Comment Feed

7 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 pmReply
  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 pmReply
  3. Yeah, read the sign before going down the stairs, rather than collapsing in front of it, gasping for breath. Like I did.

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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 [...]

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