Today is Saturday before Labor Day. We put some thought into that and determined that avoiding the key attractions was a definite. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone seemed like a good plan. Researching that area we learned that apparently the North Rim Trail was closed. We decided to hike South Rim Trail to Artists Point and then decide whether to continue on to Sublime Point.
West Yellowstone Entrance
Wow! Traffic was backed up from the park entrance all the way to West Yellowstone! Entering the park on the previous days was no big deal, yes there was a bit of await, but any rational person would expect that. Today however was far more than “a bit of a wait!”
Shortly after getting through the gate, there was a “Wildlife Jam”. That is when tourists stop in the middle of the road to take pictures of wildlife. We had encountered a few of these on previous days but not with this much traffic. The good thing is that so many visitors stopped to see the bison herd that the traffic thinned out drastically.
There are two things I remember about when my parents took me to Yellowstone National Park when I was a child. One was that the springs and geysers smell like sulphur and the other is that I was totally in awe of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon. Well those two things haven’t changed, the sulphur smell is still there, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone left me completely awestruck today. Sadly images just cannot capture the vastness of that canyon.
We parked at the Upper Falls parking lot which was not filled anywhere near capacity. The walk to view the upper falls was very short with the trail leading to Artist Point beginning at the viewpoint.
The hike to Artist Point provided some really fantastic views of the Lower Falls and the canyon. The trail had been paved at some point and most of the paving remains. Some areas are broken pavement. We wondered if we were going to like this hike as we prefer a natural tread on the trail. The hike to Artist Point was very pleasant.
Arriving at Artist Point was once again a Disney-like experience due to the fact that you can also drive there and there is a massive parking lot. Ugh. We took the proverbial photograph and moved on.
I actually prefer an image I took at a viewpoint prior to the famed Artist Point.
At Artist Point we decided to continue to complete the South Rim to Point Sublime Hike
Point Sublime Trail
The Sublime Point Trail is a great hiking trail! Great tread and awesome views of the canyon. This trail also offers a pretty good workout with lots of cumulative elevation in the form of ups & downs. The destination was not much to cheer about, this one is all about the hike.
We sat in the shade at Point Sublime and enjoyed some nutrition that Liz had prepared for us before heading back to the car.
Seriously striking views of the canyon are simply unable to be captured with images, not that we didn’t try. Out of hundreds of images only a few even begin to capture how awesome this canyon is.
Liz’z watch tracked us at 5.4 miles, Alltrails shows 6.4 miles 5 miles for the two trails and significant cumulative elevation. Combined with the heat (near 80), we were ready to call it a day.
The Drive Back
Driving through Yellowstone is never without adventure of some sort. The drive from the park entrance to Madison is about 14 miles. Madison is the junction where you choose to go north or south. The canyon is to the north to Norris where you then turn and head east.
The drive back was fairly uneventful until the stretch from Madison to the park entrance. We have encountered ‘wildlife jams’ each day in this section, but today was pretty cool! We cam across a heard of elk with a couple of bucks in Madison River. To date this is the most impressive wildlife we have observed.
Our side of the road had no place to park, so when we did find a place to park, it was a couple hundred yards up the road. We grabbed the camera and hurried back to the site in time to see some very majestic animals.
In addition to the elk there was a pretty entertaining park ranger. Of course we should not have been doing what we did, along with many other visitors. In our excitement we completely forgot that it is rut season for elk and they can be aggressive. While we were observing from a safe distance, using a long lens, we were still not being very smart.
The ranger however was rather comedic. She started off fairly calmly telling us that we should probably go back to our vehicles. As we were walking back to our truck, more and more people were stopping and getting out of their cars. The ranger began to get a bit more aggressive with her suggestions. While maintaining a fairly good natured approach she employed expletives in the form of “what the ____ are you doing? Get back in your car!”
The Yellowstone Grand Canyon is a must do when visiting the park. While the established auto tour view points are quite congested, the hike is a great way to get away from the crowds. 5 stars for this stop.