Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Trails and Overlooks

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Trails and Overlooks

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is one of the most iconic scenes in the entirety of the National Park System. But after more than 70 years of wear and tear, the trails and overlooks surrounding the Canyon are in need of rehabilitation.

Yellowstone Forever’s members and partners can help ensure that future visitors can continue to be inspired by the beauty of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone by funding improved and rehabilitated trails and overlooks.

Where the project stands, and what we need to finish it

As of Fall 2020, funds donated by Yellowstone Forever’s member and partners have been used to complete the rehabilitation of six overlooks in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone area:

  • Uncle Tom’s Point
  • Artist Point
  • Lookout Point
  • Grandview Point
  • Inspiration Point
  • Brink of the Upper Falls

While we’re almost done, there’s still one more overlook to complete — and we need your help! Yellowstone National Park is set to begin construction on the Brink of the Lower Falls, but we’re $600,000 short of our goal! Currently a total of $4.9 million has been raised to improve the overlooks at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, but we need to reach $5.5 million by the end of 2021. If we meet that goal, the money will be matched by a $4.5 million federal grant. That means your donation is almost doubled!

Renderings of Brink of the Lower Falls Improvements

Before & After Photos: Completed Overlooks

Uncle Tom’s Trail

Inspiration Point

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From a donor:

Yellowstone is a national treasure and it belongs to all of us. We are all better stewards of the planet if we are better educated about it, and Yellowstone Forever offers the opportunity to learn about America’s greatest park. — Carlene L., Tennessee

The Background: Much-Needed Rehabilitation

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone has inspired generations of Yellowstone explorers. Thomas Moran’s paintings and sketches of the vista helped sway public and political opinions toward the creation of the park. William Henry Jackson’s photographs of the sweeping scene are some of his most popular.

Nearly 150 years after those men captured the Canyon area’s beauty, the trails and overlooks that allow modern visitors the chance to be inspired are getting a much-needed overhaul.

Improvements are making it easier and safer than ever for modern-day Morans and Jacksons to create their own masterpieces. Repairs and renovations are occurring at six major overlooks and surrounding trails.

Geothermic, acidic soils, and heavy erosion around Canyon’s viewpoints have degraded overlook infrastructure over the years. Safety issues have also been cited as visitors go off paved surfaces to use social trails, or back up along aging barriers to take selfies of the canyon views.

For most visitors, the changes will amount to safer, more convenient, and less congested access. But for visitors who use wheelchairs or otherwise have additional accessibility needs, the new overlooks mean the difference between being able to marvel at Canyon’s beauty, or being excluded from those spots entirely.

Why this work matters

Over the past 70 years, the Canyon’s trails and overlooks have been stressed by unforgiving weather, compromised by erosion, and damaged by increased visitation. Issues still requiring rehabilitation at the Brink of the Lower Falls include:

  • Uneven and precariously narrow walking surfaces full of potholes and erosion;
  • Rotting log rails on bridges and along trails serve as unsuitable barriers;
  • Social trails have stripped areas of native vegetation and erosion is undermining the stability of masonry walls that uphold the precarious overlooks;
  • Visitor access to restroom facilities and viewing platforms is substandard for people with disabilities;
  • Narrow and prohibitively steep walkways reduce accessibility and cause a “bottleneck” effect during busy visitation hours;
  • A lack of intuitive visitor information leads to a disorienting visitation experience;
  • Unsound retaining walls and foundations threaten the very structure of the overlooks.

How your support helps

Your support will help fund the final overlook in this project. In addition, your gift will be matched almost dollar-for-dollar by a federal grant if Yellowstone Forever raises $5.5 million in private funds by late 2021. Currently, $4.9 million has been raised.

By investing in this project, you ensure that the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone visitor experience is a cherished memory and not a chaotic experience punctuated by closed trails, deteriorating pathways, and a disorienting trail system with poor accessibility.

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