Uncle Tom's Trail is the oldest and most famous trail into the canyon, and the closest trail to the face of Lower Falls. The 0.4 mile trail makes use of a series of stairways, containing more than 300 steps, to reach an observation platform directly in front of the 308-foot Lower Falls.
When originally constructed by Uncle Tom Richardson in the late 1800s, the trail included a series of rope ladders that scaled 400 feet down the canyon walls. Hardy visitors would spend the day with Uncle Tom, first ferrying across the Yellowstone River (before the Chittenden Bridge was constructed in the early 1900s) then ascending the South Rim to the top of Uncle Tom's Trail, finally climbing down the rope ladders to view the falls. A picnic lunch was served before the return trip.
In 1889, a license was sought for the construction of a huge elevator that would have seriously defaced the opposite wall of the canyon. Opposition by Park Superintendent Boutelle forced the withdrawal of the objectionable request.
Enjoy the view of the falls from the bottom and charge-up your batteries for the steep climb out!
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone