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South Rim Trail



1.8 mile 2.8 kilometer point to point
93% Runnable


Ascent: 205' 62 m
Descent: -197' -60 m
High: 7,796' 2,376 m
Low: 7,684' 2,342 m


Avg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 17% (10°)


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Trail shared by Tom Carter

A must-do trail with iconic views of the Upper and Lower Falls and the Yellowstone Grand Canyon!

Tom Carter

Features River/Creek · Views · Waterfall


The South Rim Trail begins on the south side of Chittenden Bridge. It follows the mighty Yellowstone River 1.8 miles downstream, past impressive views of both Upper Falls and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone, and ends near spectacular Artist Point. (RunnerS beginning their trip here should park at the Wapiti Lake Picnic Area and Trailhead 100 yards beyond the bridge on the right).

Running is pleasant along the first stretch of trail through lodgepole pine and, occasional, five-needled limber pine. There are intermittent views of the river as it churns away toward its violent destiny. Soon the trail opens up and provides good views of Upper Falls. About 0.6 miles from Chittenden Bridge, the Upper Falls Viewpoint is reached. Although you are likely to experience crowds here, it is still the best place to view the Upper Falls. The falls spills 109 feet over a dense rhyolite lava flow that is resistant to erosion. Immediately downstream, a much softer rhyolite, containing larger amounts of volcanic glass, was more easily eroded by the river.

As you continue along the South Rim Trail, look carefully through the trees to the opposite side of the canyon. Cascading through the lodgepoles, down the far wall, is the lovely 129-foot Crystal Falls.

About 0.9 miles from Chittenden Bridge, you reach the turnoff for Uncle Tom's Trail to the bottom of the canyon. This trail uses a series of steel stairways to descend more than 300 feet in 0.3 miles.

Although heavily traveled, the next section of the South Rim Trail, between Uncle Tom's Trail and Artist Point, is truly spectacular! Picturesque views of the canyon and Lower Falls await you each time you break out of the trees. As you continue to Artist Point, take a moment to contemplate how this magnificent canyon and falls were created. Hundreds of thousands of years before the canyon was formed, an ancient thermal basin existed. The hot waters altered and weakened the hard rhyolite lava in the area, allowing the river to cut this deep canyon. Today, Lower Falls tumbles 308 feet over a hard, thermally-unaltered rhyolite flow.

Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone.

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Trail Ratings

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  4.3 from 6 votes
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in Wyoming


67 Views Last Month
7,667 Since Sep 10, 2015



The South Rim Trail has great views of the Grand Canyon and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone!
Mar 5, 2016 near Canyon…, WY
Looking down river toward Artist Point.
Mar 5, 2016 near Canyon…, WY
Upper Falls through pine trees from the new overlook
Aug 16, 2019 near Canyon…, WY
Rainbow over the yellow canyon, and the steep stairs on Uncle Tom's Trail.
May 19, 2016 near Canyon…, WY


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