Uncle Tom’s Trail is a fun, but challenging hike that offers spectacular views of Lower Falls as you descend 328 steps and 500 feet into the canyon. The trail is named for pioneer, Tom Richardson, who developed the trail in 1898 that guided adventurous customers down ropes and ladders to the banks of the Yellowstone River where he prepared them a picnic lunch.
We decided to do Uncle Toms Trail first thing in the morning. We left the Lake Yellowstone Hotel after a quick breakfast and drove up to Hayden Valley on the way to the canyon. Ironically, the wildlife was more active and closer to the cars the afternoon before, but a stop in Hayden Valley was still rewarding with all there is to see.
When we got to the trail parking lot, there was a lone elk up on the hill and 2 other cars. The lack of crowd made this an ideal time slot for our family, as our boys were then ages 4, 10, 12, and 13. It was nice being able to hold my 4 year-old’s hand and slowly go down the metal stairs without having to worry about any speedier walkers waiting behind us!
You’ll read lots of warnings and cautions regarding this trail, but we found it to be very manageable for our young family…we just took our time. You are at 8000 feet elevation, which will make the equivalent of 25 flights of stairs take its toll on your legs…another good reason to do it first thing in the morning!Just take your time, bring a water bottle, and soak in the views.
Thankfully, there was a couple at the viewing platform, who were able to exchange cameras with and take the ‘whole family’ picture. This is something that I found throughout Yellowstone – pleasant people.
It made the Yellowstone experience truly awesome for our whole family. We were constantly exchanging wildlife stories, showing pictures, hearing about good places to see and eat, and sharing our adventures.
The view of the Lower Falls is well worth the descent and made the view from Artist’s Point all the more impressive as you get a true perspective of the distances.
If you want to get down into the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Uncle Tom’s Trail is a great way to do it. The trail is well marked, paved, and the metal grate stairs are far more substantial than Uncle Tom’s tourists endured in the late 1800s!