To get detailed information about lodging, amenities, and more when planning your Yellowstone trip, click here for an overview of the park before you go. We highly recommend checking this article out before reading the Yellowstone in 4 Days series.
Yellowstone in 4 Days – a Bird’s-Eye View
This is the first installment of the series “Yellowstone in 4 Days”. To see the other days, check out these links below:
- Yellowstone in 4 Days: Day 1 (Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Upper and Lower Falls, and More)
- Yellowstone in 4 Days: Day 2 (Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic, and More)
- Yellowstone in 4 Days: Day 3 (Yellowstone Lake, Hayden Valley, and West Thumb)
- Yellowstone in 4 Days: Day 4 (Lamar Valley, Norris Geyser Basin, and more)
As Yellowstone National Park is a large area with many places to see, we have divided your guide into 4 different articles; all part of the Yellowstone in 4 Days series.
Day 1 of your Yellowstone trip starts here, just south of Canyon Campground, and is centered around the Yellowstone River and its very own Grand Canyon.
Today, you will see:
- Grand View
- Lookout Point
- Artist Point
- Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
- Brink of the Lower Falls
- Brink of the Upper Falls
- Vista points along North and South Rims
After arriving in Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, you’ll probably want to start small, without driving around too much. But don’t worry—it’s definitely worth seeing, without much hassle.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone encompasses the North and South Rims and the Yellowstone River.
North Rim Drive itself is very scenic, with many small but rewarding viewpoints along the way.
Here’s the day-by-day plan in case you want to look at Day 1 of your Yellowstone trip from a birds-eye view:
1st Stop: Lookout Point
After a short drive south along Grand Loop Road, you will come to North Rim Drive. Following the road, you will reach Lookout Point. After parking, there’s a semicircular paved outcrop where you can view the Lower Falls. The fall is in the center of a u-shaped dip formed by the water.
It offers a very similar view to the one at Grand View(below) but is much closer. If it suits you, there is a hike that will bring you to the Yellowstone River but is more strenuous. No hiking required, but a must-see on your Yellowstone Trip.
2nd Stop: Grand View
Grand View is situated further on the North Rim Drive. It offers an amazing view of the Lower Falls of Yellowstone. The Lower Falls are surrounded by yellowish-orange cliffs that accentuate the waterfall, which goes down to form the winding Yellowstone River, flanked by clusters of evergreen trees.
It’s hardly a walk to get there—its only a few steps down from the parking lot if you park nearby. It’s actually an offshoot of the North Rim Trail, but you can just drive right up to the vista point. So, this is one of the best vista points in Yellowstone and only requires a few minutes, with all the drive-up convenience included.
3rd Stop: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone(optional)
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone’s vista point is around the same area as Grand view and offers a similar look. Just a small walk to the viewpoint.
Look at the picture above. It is almost the same, just seeing the river from a different angle. Go to this if you can, but it is O.K. to skip this one if necessary.
4th Stop: Inspiration Point—Could Not Go
At the End of North Rim is Inspiration Point. Just a few steps down a metal staircase leads you to a view overlooking the Yellowstone River. Surges of whitewater and small cascades are clearly seen among the narrow river, accompanied with two steep walls that form a canyon.
Although you can only see a sliver of the Lower Falls, it is still worth seeing the massive gouge of the Yellowstone River. We were planning on going, but couldn’t because the road was closed.
5th Stop: Brink of the Lower Falls Hike
On your way back up North Rim Drive, don’t miss this awesome spot, because you won’t see anything like this! There is a parking place nearby, but you will have to walk a little over half a mile right to make it to the trailhead. It’s a small walk on the North Rim Trail, no big deal.
Once you reach the trailhead, it is a set of switchbacks down about 200 feet or so. It is 0.8 miles, one way. The way down is very easy, just don’t lose your balance. The way back up is a little steeper, but still doable, because of the many benches and rest areas. This hike may seem somewhat strenuous, but it is quite easily done.
At the bottom of the trail is a large flat area right next to the falls. The waterfall is at least 20 feet wide, and it drops more than 300 feet! Everything is quiet compared to the roar of the water, with gallons and gallons of water pouring down into the huge gorge.
Be prepared for more waterfalls, because they’ll keep coming today!
6th Stop: Brink of the Upper Falls
After driving down Grand Loop Road, you will come off the road to the Upper Falls. It is less than 1/2-mile walk to the falls. It seems somewhat similar to Lower Falls, but the Upper Falls is unique in its own way. It seems more “earthen” and natural than the stunning Lower Falls.
But don’t be fooled: The Upper Falls is still a dazzling sight, and should not be missed. The water spills down 50+ feet into the Yellowstone River. The falls are quite intimidating and seem much closer than the Lower Falls. Small rainbows and swirls of mist only add to the effect. This is far more accessible than Lower Falls and is truly immersive.
7th Stop: Artist Point
The final stop of today is Artist Point. It is the furthest of all stops on the South Rim Drive. After you park(which is right next to the point), there are a few steps down to reach the vista points along a short stretch of pavement.
One of the points offers a view like this, perfect for photos. The Lower Falls are seen very clearly between the canyons. Further up, there is a stone outcrop which is right below the Yellowstone River, offering a panoramic view of the falls and river. Easy to do, with a rewarding view!
This sums up Day 1 of Yellowstone of our series Yellowstone in 4 Days. Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at some of the big points in Yellowstone—try and guess!