Lower Falls and The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone are a must for anyone visiting Yellowstone National Park. Just down the road from Canyon Village, Yellowstone Falls (Upper + Lower) cascades into the canyon, providing one of the most iconic views in a park full of iconic views. While the 109-foot Upper Falls is no slouch, the 308-foot Lower Falls is the main event. In 1870, a member of the Washburn Party gave the following description of the falls: “A grander scene than the lower cataract of the Yellowstone was never witnessed by mortal eyes.” Chances are he had never seen the actual Grand Canyon, but still, his epic description shows why this has become such a popular attraction in the park.
Like so many of the sights in Yellowstone, the falls are easily accessible by car. If you drive just a few minutes from Canyon Village, you can drive along either the North Rim Drive or the South Rim Drive and stop at several viewpoints that offer stunning vistas of both Upper and Lower Falls as well as a straight shot down the canyon. Given its popularity, you should expect busy parking lots and crowds of tourists at every viewpoint. Lookout Point on the North Rim Trail and Artist Point on the South Rim Trail provide some of the best views of Lower Falls with the canyon in the foreground.
Brink of the Lower Falls
Reaching the brink of the Lower Falls requires a bit of effort, but it’s well worth it. The hike down to the brink is about 3/8 of a mile long and descends 300 feet into the canyon on a zig-zagging paved trail. At the bottom of the trail, a fenced-off overlook allows visitors to look down on the thundering falls as the Yellowstone River rolls over the edge into the canyon. With the water flow ranging from 680 cubic feet/second to 8,400 cubic feet/second at its peak in the Spring, Lower Falls is the largest waterfall by volume in the Rocky Mountains of the US. It is also twice as tall as Niagara Falls, although the volume is much lower due to how narrow this part of the canyon is. There is also a view of the Upper Falls from this vantage point.