Apr 17

An Inspired Reconstruction

We’ll start with the bad news: Yellowstone’s Inspiration Point is currently closed for the season. Now for the good news: it will reopen by the fall of 2017 after an extensive rehabilitation. The restored overlook will once again offer some of the most epic views of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, while providing a safer and more spectacular experience.

Inspiration Point has long been one of the most popular, as well as accessible, viewpoints along the 20-mile-long Canyon. Located on the North Rim, it can be reached on foot via the North Rim Trail, or by automobile on a short detour off North Rim Drive. Those arriving by car can reach the overlook in just a few moments on a paved, wheelchair-accessible trail. Because the overlook juts out slightly from the canyon wall, it provides sweeping views both up and down the canyon.

inspiration_update_webRestoration of the site has long been needed: the original Inspiration Point overlook tumbled into the Canyon during an earthquake, limiting access to only an upper platform. Recently, because of unsafe conditions caused by erosion, the walkway has been shortened once more. While the view of the canyons remain spectacular, the current vantage point does not allow the commanding, 270-degree view for which this point is renowned.

Restoration work will replace the concrete upper stairs with more natural-looking stone. A new, universally accessible path will lead to two new overlooks: one with an up-canyon view to the west and a new midslope overlook with views up and down the canyon. Newly installed stone stairs will lead to a lower, elevated overlook revealing an even more expansive scene.

Work began in June, and is expected to continue into the fall, with a total estimated budget of $1.9 million. Funds for the project were contributed by the Yellowstone Park Foundation, which is raising funds for the restoration of a total of ten Canyon overlooks and trails.

Words, or even photographs, do not do justice to the panoramic view from Inspiration Point. For Nathaniel Langford, a member of the 1870 Washburn Expedition to Yellowstone, it apparently inspired both awe and a mini existential meltdown:

“Standing there or rather lying there for greater safety, I thought how utterly impossible it would be to describe to another the sensations inspired by such a presence. As I took in the scene, I realized my own littleness, my helplessness, my dread exposure to destruction, my inability to cope with or even comprehend the mighty architecture of nature.”

We hope you’ll have an opportunity to visit the re-opened Inspiration Point, and—while safely positioned behind platform railings—see for yourself why this overlook has been exhilarating visitors for generations.