Yellowstone National Park Hiking

July 23-27, 2016 – We’re fortunate to live a day’s drive from Yellowstone National Park.  We decided to take advantage of this fact, booked a room at the (new) Canyon lodging, and headed out.  Our preference is to try to find more out of the way hikes, or at the very least start hikes early enough that we have at least some peace and quiet on the trail.  Here’s our recap of the five days we spent.

 

Food

We ate breakfast at the Canyon Cafeteria every day.  On the first day we saw a giant bison just relaxing by the employee lodging.  Anyway, the food was always good – anything with gravy, biscuits, or the breakfast burrito are our recommendations.  Lunches were eaten on the trail, and then dinner was almost always at the cafeteria again.  We did branch out and go to the dining room once, and then over to the Lake lodge dining room for turkey and fresh fish.  Overall we enjoy the offerings and the more relaxed atmosphere at Canyon though.

 

Hiking

So, what trails did we do?

  • Mt Washburn is one of our favorite effort-to-reward trails.  It’s also quite popular, so we advise getting there early if you even want to be able to get a parking spot.  This time we headed up the old road, vs the current fire road.  This hike had great views all the way up, as well as a field of late summer wildflowers.  Once at the top we went up the fire watch tower, and then for a short walk along one of the nearby trails just to see what was around the corner.
  • Tower Creek is a pretty trail with one small problem – after about a quarter mile there is a river crossing, and if the water is high (like it was when we were there) you’ll probably want to turn back.  (As a side note, there used to be a bridge, but it got washed out sometime in the past decade or so.)
  • The Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trail is at the back of the picnic grounds. We parked along the road and eventually found our way up to the ridge line.  The views start to open up after about a quarter mile, with an expansive meadow to the left and the river and canyon to the right.  We continued along the Specimen Ridge trail for about 3.5 miles, and would definitely do this trail again; it’s fairly gradual (except for the beginning) and is a nice break for the crowds at Tower.
  • The drive to the Wahb Springs trailhead took us through a beautiful, less crowded area of the park.  On the way we pulled over to watch the bison heard in the fields below.  This trail is completely open, and it was in the mid 80s the day we hiked.  There were some antelope in the field, and bison off in the distance.  After a few miles we turned back when the rock we were loooking at turned out to have fur and horns – Louisa thinks 25 yards isn’t quite far enough to be safe from bison.
  • Cascade Lake Trail begins at located in a picnic area, and is a little more crowded as a result.  The trail is also slightly marshy and rather buggy, even later in the summer.  However it makes for a nice walk if you’re looking for something flat (and is even better if you have bug spray).
  • The trail for Terrace Mountain was another new one for us, and quickly became a favorite.  We hiked this one clockwise; this direction took us through a meadow, down through a forest, and finally near some very unique rock formations.  We saw few other people (most of the hike was done in solitude), and only a few birds.  The route itself is a fairly easy walk of about 6 miles, and is a very pleasant hike that we would definitely do again.  One caution is that the parking lot is shared with Mt. Bunsen, and tends to fill up quite quickly.
  • The brink of the lower falls is a short but steep hike with nice views and corresponding crowds.  We like to do the hike one of the evenings as a relaxing way to end the day.
  • While we’ve done the hike to the brink of the lower falls before, we’ve never hiked down the trail a bit farther down river that ends on an overlook for the falls.  This trail is a bit longer than the one to the brink of the lower falls, and winds through trees on the way.  It’s also much less crowded, and very scenic.
  • Elephant Back Mountain is by the Lake area.  We decided to hike counterclockwise, which provided great views at the top and the way down.  This is a shorter four mile hike, and one we would do on the way out of the park.
  • The area by Old Faithful is always a favorite, with the geysers, boardwalk, and ice cream.  This time we headed towards the Black Sand Basin and found a beautiful blue geyser with black earth around it.  We also continued past the paved trail towards Morning Glory Pool, an even more beautiful blue pool where we enjoyed lunch.
  • The hike up to Monument Geyser Basin is steep.  Short, but steep – we estimate about 700′ elevation gain over 0.8 miles, with most of it coming over the last 0.6 miles of the trail.  The trip is worth it to see an undeveloped area with steam vents.
  • Norris Geyser Basin is another favorite, we did a sunset walk along the outer edge of the basin.
  • Artist Paint Pots are becoming more popular (and noisier).  If you have the time and the patience we recommend waiting for the groups to head out so you can hear and enjoy the boiling mud.

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