On this day, we were set to head out to the Canyon section of the park, which from photos looked beautiful and I was excited to see. Early in the drive, we stopped off at Wraith Falls for a quick, 1 mile round trip hike to the falls.
On the route, which was lightly traveled by other visitors, we passed a number of beautiful little wildflowers.
Once we reached the footbridge under which the runoff from the falls traveled, we headed up the stairs that led to a view of the falls. Again, this did feel a little more strenuous in the high altitude than it looked like it should have! But maybe I was just tired…yeah, that was it…
Shortly after, we stopped to see the “Petrified Tree”, which became fossilized after being buried in lava, which preserved it and the mineral filled water that eventually soaked it turned it to rock. It’s hard to imagine that this tree could be millions of years old! There is a number of other petrified trees East of Roosevelt Junction moving towards the Northeast entrance, but it is supposed to be a very steep and strenuous climb, so we just appreciated this one.
On the stretch of the Grand Loop between Roosevelt Junction and Canyon, we came to the grandest, prettiest lookout we’d seen in the park yet, at least in my opinion. Overlooking an expansive valley with mountains in all directions, I wish pictures did the view justice.
The drive from there to Canyon was certainly the most scenic and beautiful overall that we had seen yet.
We had lunch in a picnic area then moved on to explore the Canyon area. We hit some of the most popular spots, including lookouts of the Lower and Upper Falls. There were two hikes to the Lower Falls that we did not do, but if you are a little more adventuresome and not bothered by steep, high hikes like I am, you would probably want to check them out. One is a windy path with steep dropoffs to get to the head of the Lower Falls, another is on the other side of the Canyon, called Uncle Tom’s Trail, which comprises of 328 steps down to the Falls.
We then drove the short distance to Inspiration Point, which offers sweeping views of the Canyon and beautiful green-blue rushing river in both directions. You can really see the colors of the Canyon here, too, which were a result of hydrothermal changes to the rock over time.
The lookout over the Upper Falls was gorgeous, and required only a short path and climb up and down a short set of stairs. The lookout brought us very close to the dropoff of the Falls, where we could almost feel the intensity of the water rushing by. The rush of the water created a fine mist, which created a beautiful rainbow in the air just above the water.
We then drove to the other side of the Canyon to Artist’s Point, perhaps the most famous lookout area of the Canyon. And rightfully so, because it was breathtaking. It offers a distant, but prominent, view of the Lower Falls down a portion of the Canyon, which is really 24 miles long in total. The Lower Falls, coming in at 308 feet in height is almost twice as high as Niagara Falls, and truly spectacular to see in person.
We then drove back to Norris Geyser Basin, as we had not had time to finish this before dark on our first day. Here, we walked another boardwalk tour of thermal features. The hot springs towards the end were so blue and serene looking, they reminded me of a tropical oasis – but one you would not want to swim in, of course!
Our final stop of the day was to Sheepeater Cliff, an interesting basalt rock formation named for a tribe of Native Americans known to rely heavily on bighorn sheep for food, clothing, and weaponry. They would actually make bows out of the sheep’s horns!
We took a short hike along a waterway to get more views of the cliff than those from parking lot. While there, we even saw a marmot climbing on the rocks. John did some climbing himself to catch up with him and got this awesome shot…
After that, it was time to head back to the camper, enjoy the view and plan the next day…