This was the one hike that C was adamant that he wanted to do in Yellowstone, but of course we stayed up too late drinking and arguing about our plans the night before (read that here), so when it came to actually hiking it, C bailed on us. But we pressed on without him. We had made a plan, damnit.
The hike was beautiful and fun despite its popularity. Even though the hikes were overrun with people, they were still much better than the places where people could just get out of their cars and push past everyone else to get the best selfie. On a hike, there’s more of a feeling of “We’re in this together!” And especially on this hike which involves descending (and then ascending) 375 stairs to the bottom of the lower falls. People were asking each other how much further it was and offering encouragement to those who were climbing back up. Kids were counting every step – in a variety of languages.
If you know me, you know I’m afraid of heights. While I have definitely shoved my fears aside and somehow completed some really fucking scary hikes (read about Havasupai Mooney Falls here), I still struggle. And if no one is pressuring me to finish a scary hike, I can pretty easily give up… The stairs on this hike descend all the way down the side of the cliff to the bottom of the lower falls. There are masses of people on these stairs heading in both directions, and I just kept imagining the whole structure falling off the cliff or collapsing. Even though these stairs are sturdy as fuck, my fears are not rational. I pushed myself halfway down, but when C’s brother quit, I had my perfect out. I quit, too. Luckily, C’s dad made it down, though, so at least one of us succeeded!
Even without making it to the bottom, the entirety of the hike was pretty beautiful.
This hike can be done on the North or South rim; we hiked the south rim starting from Artist Point at the lower falls (the parking lot at the upper falls was parked out to the street, but we found a couple of open spaces at the lower falls parking lot). More people seem to park at the upper falls so that they can just hike down the stairs instead of doing the whole trail. However, the hike from lower falls is not difficult nor is it very long, and it provides many overlooks of the falls and the canyon. There were a lot of families enjoying the hike along with us, though the trail is pretty rough for strollers and wheelchairs in some sections.