Yellowstone – South Rim Trail

As previously discussed, Yellowstone National Park is one of my favorite destinations. Perhaps not known to all, Yellowstone contains a grand canyon of its own, made of yellow rocks carved by the Yellowstone River.[i]

Trails line both the north and south rims of this impressive canyon. After two miles on the South Rim Trail, hikers reach Artist Point. Aptly named, Artist Point provides visitors with a spectacular view of the Lower Falls[ii] of the Yellowstone River.

On my last trip to the park, part of my itinerary included three days in a row of reasonably easy hiking. The first two days called for about 10- to 12-mile hikes each day, while the third day’s hike would be about 5 or 6 miles.

After hiking ten miles on day one, a relatively flat excursion, I felt ready and able to hike a similar distance the next day. I did, but the second day included a far greater rise in elevation, and at the end of that hike I noticed my right foot felt off—but I would recover by the next day, I was sure.

Day three, ready to embark on a short and easy walk on the South Rim Trail, I put on my hiking shoes and set off on my way. I walked no more than ten steps before accepting that I could not bear the pain in the Achilles area of my right foot/ankle – I could not wear shoes. Determined to hike to Artist Point nonetheless, I slipped on a pair of sandals and was off in earnest.

I began in the Wapiti Lake parking lot, headed toward the Chittenden Bridge, crossed the road and walked onto the South Rim Trail. A testament to the approachability of the South Rim Trail, I succeeded in traversing this path in flimsy worn out flip-flops. I certainly would not recommend that anyone repeat this footwear choice intentionally. However, should you have no other option, I can now advise that it is entirely possible. Just watch your step.

This trail, short and accessible (part dirt and part paved), offers beautiful views of the Yellowstone River and its upper and lower falls along the way. It also leads to one of the most iconic viewpoints of Yellowstone National Park: Artist Point, where visitors can see a panoramic view of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and the river’s Lower Falls.

If you park at the Wapiti Lake parking lot, it is a mere two miles to Artist Point, four miles round-trip. If you continue on to Point Sublime, a mile beyond Artist Point, you will enjoy further views of the canyon, and perhaps leave some of the crowd behind.

Whatever you choose to do, which may include simply driving to the Artist Point parking lot, be sure to visit Artist Point on your Yellowstone trip. If you are able, I encourage you to hike the South Rim Trail and take advantage of the canyon and waterfall views along the way. A four-mile excursion round trip, this path is clearly accessible enough for most anyone to handle. I did complete it in sandals with a bum foot, after all.

Yellowstone River
Yellowstone River – Upper Falls

[i] https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/canyonplan.htm

[ii] 308 feet high