North Rim Trail
ElevationAscent: 270' 82 m
Descent: -310' -95 m
High: 7,866' 2,398 m
Low: 7,652' 2,332 m
GradeAvg Grade: 3% (2°)
Max Grade: 25% (14°)
Current trail conditions
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“The North Rim Trail leads you alongside the spectacular Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone!”— Tom Carter
Before starting, visit Inspiration Point to view the canyon and a portion of Lower Falls. Until 1975 the walkway led all the way to the point. A significant earthquake that summer caused rock to weaken and eventually a 300-foot vertical column of rock slid out from under the walkway. There were 15 visitors on the scenic overlook when the slide occurred. Fourteen scrambled to safety, while the 15th remained to take pictures. When he was rescued, he had some pretty good shots!
The North Rim Trail begins to the right of Inspiration Point and meanders up and down along the canyon rim 1 mile to Grandview. This is one of my favorite sections of the trail; there is no road in sight and relatively few people use this section. Runners enjoy impressive intermittent views of canyon color through the lodgepole pine and occasional subalpine fir trees.
Views become more impressive as you approach Grandview. From here the trail, rejoined by the road, continues upriver along the very edge of this awe-inspiring canyon. At the 1.3 mile mark you reach Lookout Point. A short walkway leads to the point where you get your first great vantage of Lower Falls. Its 308-foot plunge is approximately twice that of Niagara Falls. From here you can take a side trip to Red Rock Point. This well-groomed, but steep, spur trail drops 500 feet in 0.3 miles to one of the area's finest views of Lower Falls.
As you continue from Lookout Point you eventually spy, in the distance, the spray from 109-foot Upper Falls. Here, at the 2.2 mile mark, you are directly above the Lower Falls. A paved spur trail switchbacks down 600 feet in 0.5 miles to the brink of Lower Falls.
To continue the North Rim Trail, start down the spur trail to Lower Falls, but proceed straight into the forest at the first switchback. Soon the trail crosses Cascade Creek just above Crystal Falls. For a good view of this delicate falls, take a short spur trail to the left about 100 yards past the creek. At 2.7 miles, cross the Brink of Upper Falls parking area and follow an easy stone stairway to the brink of the falls.
The North Rim Trail continues upstream hugging the relatively calm Yellowstone River. At the 3.2 mile mark the trail ends near Chittenden Bridge.
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone.
Land Manager: National Park Service - Yellowstone National Park