Clinging to the Canyon: Uncle Tom’s Trail

Yellowstone National Park

We were gazing at the spectacular Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Lower Falls, and my kids noticed a little stairway that went down the side of the canyon wall. Curious, we did some research. It turned out that this stairway was a portion of the “Uncle Tom’s Trail”.

The trail was first constructed by “Uncle Tom” H. F. Richardson, when the Department of the Interior granted Richardson a permit to operate a ferry across the Yellowstone River. The ferry crossing was where the Chittenden Memorial Bridge was later constructed. Patrons would pay Richardson to descend into the canyon via ropes and ladders. For a $1 fee, the guests were taken to the base of the canyon and back to the rim, where they were fed a lunch. In 1905, the government built a wooden stairway, taking away Richardson’s business.

NPS: Guests being led down a rope on the side of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Upon leaving the trail parking area on the south rim, hikers are greeted with these two signs:



The stairway can be a little bit intimidating.


Once to the observation platform, you can view the beauty of the lower falls. Then, one must remember that going down was optional, going back up the 308 stairs is mandatory!!!


If you are planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park, I hope that you will be able to take advantage of this opportunity to have a unique perspective of these iconic falls. It is some work, but worth every step.

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