As Ryan alluded to in our first Yellowstone National Park post, this park is pretty epic. I agree. So, we’re posting multiple entries with the hope of doing the world’s first national park justice.
As mentioned, our first stop in YSNP focused on the Canyon, Tower-Roosevelt and Mammoth regions of the park. Following our three-day backcountry jaunt, we spent a little more time in the Canyon area and devoted a day to “active recovery” of sore muscles by walking the easy South Rim trail along the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This paved trail covers one mile of canyon rim stretching from the parking lot and to Artist’s Point, the return trip is along the same trail and adds an additional mile.
Next on our list of territory to explore were the Mammoth Hot Springs - a veritable must! Go early. Not like 9am early, but sunrise early. We set our alarms painfully early one morning and headed to Mammoth Hot Springs for sunrise at 6am. By going at dawn, we avoided the hoards of tourists and viewed plumes of steam made more visible and dramatic by the early morning chill, while basking in the rising rays in the East. The peach and yellow light at this time of day sweetly complimented the travertine springs and brilliantly danced off the trickling pools of hot water bubbling out of Earth’s core. We wandered here for a while admiring the primordial power residing within. These hot springs nurture the lives of some, while taking it away from others as was seen by the groves of preserved remains of unfortunately located trees. In fact, some geothermal areas of YSNP serve as research sites for NASA, particularly related to the ability of bacteria colonies to thrive in extremely harsh environments.
Also in the Mammoth area is the beautifully diverse Lava Creek Hike, an eight-mile round trip wander connecting the Lava Creek picnic area with the Mammoth campground. We hiked this trail along a babbling creek which grew into a roaring river, through fields of wildflowers, among the lodgepole pines, and over a suspension bridge. This area of the park is a peaceful blend of high desert and alpine foliage reminiscent of the High Sierras (where I grew up), complete with the sweet smell of sagebrush. Overall, this moderately strenuous hike was worth every step!
Another hike we did was Hellroaring, a 4-5 mile wander that our travel book boasted as possibly the best hike in the park. The keyword here is “possibly.” It was an easy distance with mediocre scenery steep enough for hiking poles, but I recommend keeping your hands free to swat mosquitoes.
We’re off in Grand Teton for a few days, but will be back in YSNP for two more weeks. Check back soon, we have exciting plans!