The Yellowstone River Narrows

Once I left Slough Creek I went to Tower Fall for lunch. After I finished eating I wasted little time before starting another hike. I decided on the Yellowstone River Narrows Trail. Several miles north of the heart of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone lie the canyon narrows. That is where the distance between the canyons walls close in, showcasing a spectacular stretch of the river before it exits the canyon a little farther downriver. A hiking trail runs along the canyon’s rim with the surging Yellowstone River far below.

The trailhead is at the Yellowstone River Picnic Area, just east of Tower Junction. So it’s actually far from the canyon area, up near the northern reaches of the park. I drove through the crowded picnic area, unable to find a spot to park. I had to head back to the main road and park a little ways back along the side of the road. It was a short hike, just 3.7 miles total, so I only grabbed my camera and water bottle and headed for the picnic area.

A path led west from the picnic grove, climbing a small grassy hill beside a forest. Over the hill a view of the Absaroka Mountains opened up before me. The hill ended at the canyon’s rim. I approached the rim cautiously before leaning out over the edge. Unlike the many overlooks in the canyon area, there was no railing here. I quickly stepped back as a strong breeze almost blew the hat off my head. The river rushed far below me. The canyon was not as deep as in the canyon proper near the waterfalls, but it was still a few hundred feet down to the river. The water was a shimmering electric blue. White water was abundant as the river was littered with massive boulders the size of small cars. It twisted its way around subtle curves in the canyon.

The opposite rim dropped down to the river at a more gradual rate than my side. However, both walls were still quite sheer forming a wide “V.” The lower half of both walls were greener than yellow, covered by patches of grass and lodgepole pines.


After taking some photos I continued on the trail as it paralleled the cliff’s edge for two miles. It was a rather easygoing stroll from then on. It was early afternoon so the sun was high and bright. And the path was exposed, so that made for another hot hike in Yellowstone. Thankfully a continually strong breeze swept across the plateau and over the rim.

I was mesmerized by the view of the Yellowstone River and how it changed so much in the short time I followed the trail. I couldn’t believe how different the canyon looked there versus the more popular lookouts near canyon village. Furthermore, it was a much more personal viewing experience there. I saw less than ten hikers on the entire trail. Earlier, I saw dozens of people at each of the overlooks of the Lower Falls and probably over one hundred at Artist Point. I cherished the calm and peaceful atmosphere; the only noise being the wind and the river far below.

I proceeded along the rim with my eyes on the river. With each step I took, the canyon walls continued to close in. The pines dispersed from the walls as they grew too steep for vegetation. Large rock towers protruded from the canyon walls. They shot up from near the base of the canyon and stretched almost all the way to the rim.

A little farther along, a layer of molten lava rock and basalt columns lined the upper portion of the closer wall just below the rim. The opposite wall became so steep that it was completely dark from the lack of sunlight.

Soon I reached a small junction in the trail. I turned away from the cliff and slowly headed back towards the road past several large piles of manure. I’m not certain if they were from horses or bison, but they were gigantic. The path eventually brought me to the park road, which I then had to follow for a half mile before reaching the picnic area where the trail began.


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