GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Books accompanying travelers to the Park since 2002

All posts tagged hiking

When planning to camp during your Yellowstone trip, you will find the chart of the 12 campgrounds in Yellowstone on page 365 of Yellowstone Treasures to be helpful. But keep in mind there are many more opportunities just outside the park, both private and public.

Beartooth Butte

Beartooth Butte

Six national forests either border Yellowstone National Park or are very nearby. In Shoshone National Forest, outside the East Entrance, there are 31 campgrounds. At the foot of Beartooth Butte lies crystal-clear Beartooth Lake. There you’ll find a campground with 21 sites, a picnic area, fishing, hiking trails, and a boat ramp. Shoshone was the first national forest in the United States. You can find out more and get a full-color visitor guide by calling 1-307-527-6241 or visiting the Shoshone National Forest website.

All the nearby national forests are clearly marked on the maps in the guidebook, and we include a phone directory for the ranger districts near the approach roads to the park.

—Editor Beth Chapple

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What to see and do near Canyon Village

Categories: Trip planning
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Yellowstone Canyon from Inspiration Point

Canyon colors from Inspiration Point

Are you planning a trip to Yellowstone? Here are some tips about what you can visit when you are in the right middle section of the figure 8 known as the Grand Loop Road. (See the main map to orient yourself.)

  • At the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, marvel at the world’s most spectacular combination of rainbow-colored canyon walls and breathtaking waterfalls.
  • For an unusual and uncrowded view into the Yellowstone River canyon across the river from the busy Tower Fall area, take the Specimen Ridge Trail from the Yellowstone River picnic area. You can see Calcite Springs and sometimes spy osprey or peregrine falcon nests in the canyon.
  • Horses are available at Canyon, Mammoth, and Tower-Roosevelt Junctions, for hire from the park concessionaire.
  • Opened at the end of August 2006, the beautifully upgraded Canyon Visitor Center displays the volcanic source of Yellowstone’s wonders in ways that all can understand. Exhibits about the caldera eruptions, subsequent lava flows, glacial effects, and earthquakes bring you up to date on scientific knowledge about the park’s geology. Don’t miss it when you visit the Canyon area!

There’s more about what to see and do at and in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in Yellowstone Treasures, fourth edition, pages 179-188. Here is the Canyon Area: Village and Falls map from that section of the guidebook.

–Editor and webmaster, Beth Chapple

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Recommended walks in Yellowstone Park

Categories: Trip planning, Winter
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Until the park reopens fully next April, we won’t be able to follow any of its wonderful trails except for those open to skiing and snowshoeing. But I have happy memories—as well as anticipation for my own future use—of walking wonderful Yellowstone trails in the summer season.

Yellowstone Treasures’ first edition (2002) listed 59 trails that I recommend, having walked all of them myself, most of them several times. But now in the fourth edition we’re down to 56, and here’s my chance to explain what happened to those three lost trails!

First, in the Canyon area, the trail from Artists’ Point east along the canyon’s south rim, where I’ve written (on page 182 in the new edition) that you can see “some of the most awe-inspiring sunset colors you will see anywhere, with the sky and canyon rivaling each other on a beautiful evening.” This trail is not maintained for casual walkers. The National Park Service warns hikers of uneven footing and steep drop-offs; it’s also narrow and sometimes slippery.

Next, the trail to the base of Tower Fall has proven so difficult to maintain over the years that it disappeared from my table of walks (pages 366 to 368) as early as the second edition of Yellowstone Treasures, which came out in 2005. The picture below shows Tower Fall from the easily accessible viewing platform.
Tower Fall

Most recently, I’ve had to remove a quiet, little-used, level road with many wildflowers and lovely mountain views that was formerly open to biking and walking, This was a two mile (in and out) route leaving the main road south of Swan Lake in the northwestern part of the park. It has been closed for public use for a year or two now and is only a service road.

For your information: The park will not reopen until December 15; from then on until early March there will be relatively limited access. Only snow coaches and snowmobiles may use the groomed roads. The one road that is plowed for cars and trucks goes from the North Entrance at Gardiner to the Northeast Entrance and on to Cooke City. Of course, winter is the best time to see wolves along that road, especially in the Lamar Valley.

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Wolves in winter

Categories: Wildlife, Winter
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Working most of my waking hours to prepare the next edition of Yellowstone Treasures for the printer, I have neglected my blog [February 2013]. But I never neglect looking at interesting tidbits written by other Yellowstone enthusiasts. Here’s a quote I particularly love from an article by Josh Eells about the wolves. It is just appearing in Mens’ Journal—which I don’t read routinely! I highlighted my favorite sentence:

With the Lamars out of sight, finding wolves was tougher than expected. On the other hand: If you’re not going to see wolves, there’s no better place to not see them than Yellowstone in winter. The park is majestically empty, devoid of the theme-park masses who crowd it in the warmer seasons. The bears had already gone into hibernation, but we saw loads of other wildlife: bison, elk, pronghorn, coyotes, ravens, and eagles. One day, a friend and I hiked up a trail called Specimen Ridge, where a snow-peaked Mount Washburn towered in the distance and the ice-cold Yellowstone River wound its way through steaming geothermal vents in the canyon below. We saw a set of fresh mountain lion prints in the snow, atop some also-fresh deer tracks – a real-time picture of nature at work.

Takes me back to last winter, when I got to visit the park for a week. See my trip report, Winter in Yellowstone, Part I and Part II.

Read more: http://www.mensjournal.com/magazine/yellowstones-wild-gray-wolves-20130214#ixzz2KzJrWh5h

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Just a couple more days

Categories: Bio, Park environs
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[2012] I’m about to take off for my favorite part of the world. But I want to tell you about another delightful place I’ll go and an experience I’ll have while traveling this month. The place is called East Rosebud Lake, where private cabins are clustered around a beautiful Montana mountain lake and a trail begins, taking you over the Beartooth Mountains to Cooke City on the edge of Yellowstone.

I have hiked only a part of the trail, but my grandfather Fred Inabnit hiked many times in those mountains even before there were real trails. He and hardy groups of hiker/climbers that he organized and led from southern Montana went as far as they could with horse-drawn wagons and later cars in the early 1900s. Then they backpacked, with what we’d now consider crude equipment, into the mountains for many days at a time. They must have subsisted mainly on the fish they caught, because they couldn’t buy freeze-dried meals in 1910!

One of Fred’s goals was to find a way to the top of Montana’s highest mountain, Granite Peak. He never made it himself, but some of his colleagues found a route that took them up there. However, when he died, a group of his friends successfully petitioned the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to name a mountain for him. So this brings me to what I’ll be doing on August 26th.

Two years ago I helped to rededicate and unveil the plaque that had been placed at the foot of Fred Inabnit’s mountain. The plaque was brought down and is now attached to a large boulder in the meadow near the East Rosebud Trailhead. This year the Forest Service has completed an interpretive sign to place next to the plaque, so of course, we need a little ceremony to unveil it! That’s what I’ll help to do next week. A wonderful excuse to stay a couple of days at the place my grandfather loved and called “a little bit of Switzerland” after his native country.

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White Creek and Yellowstone Treasures

Categories: Thermal features
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From the time Yellowstone Treasures was new in 2002 until the third reprint of the third edition earlier this year [2012], I’ve told readers about a narrow unmaintained trail that leads from the Great Fountain Geyser parking area to some interesting hot springs and geysers along White Creek. Certainly not intending to go against National Park Service regulations, I nevertheless neglected to point out in recent printings that the trail was closed to visitors in about 2010.

This action was probably taken because visitors were overusing the area and harming the natural features, as a knowledgeable geyser gazer pointed out in an e-mail message last week. He said that “the number of people going up White Creek to look at Octopus Pool and other features increased drastically” about ten years ago. He also said that these visitors “had no knowledge of how to be safe in such situations. Nobody understood how much environmental damage they were doing, either,” and he pointed out that “anybody with access to the internet and popular guidebooks thinks of White Creek as a destination.”

Not surprisingly, this gave me a sense of mea culpa, which has been gnawing at me these past few days. Although I cannot correct old editions, I will no longer write about the White Creek hydrothermal features in Yellowstone Treasures—and I will point out that the area is now closed to visitors. White Creek is one of several interesting but fragile and even potentially dangerous places in the park that have suffered from overuse and been judged by the park service to need time to recover.

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Yellowstone grizzlies know it’s spring

Categories: Trip planning, Wildlife
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If you know and love the Yellowstone area and the wild mountain country around it, you may have your own bear stories. But you’ve survived to tell them, and two of last year’s hikers did not. Now it’s the season when bears emerge from their dens, and the memory of last summer’s two fatal attacks by grizzlies in central Yellowstone is still fresh.

This month the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and Yellowstone National Park have released their detailed reports, and the park is initiating major efforts to increase bear awareness and encourage the use of bear spray by backcountry hikers.

An excellent report on last summer’s grizzly-caused deaths and the recommendations of the study group appeared on March 20th [2012] in the High Country News Range Blog:
http://www.hcn.org/hcn/blogs/range/rethinking-recreation-in-grizzly-country. If you’re planning to take hikes away from the most popular sights and routes in or around Yellowstone, you need to prepare by reading such reports and follow the associated advice.

As for me—I admit that I stay within a few miles of the roads and always hike with small groups of friends or family. I’ve had a healthy fear of bears since early childhood. Of course, my bear stories are pretty tame as a result.

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Tips for a great Yellowstone vacation

Categories: Park environs, Trip planning
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It’s almost Valentine’s Day and high time to make those reservations, if you are planning a trip to Yellowstone Park next summer. Already some of the lodgings may be sold out on the dates you need, but you still should be able to find some places available at the six possible lodging areas in the park. The best way to make bookings is to call the park concessionaire, Xanterra, at 866-439-7375 or 307-344-7311. Also, it may help to know that motels and hotels in the gateway communities do not sell out as early as in-park lodgings do.

Some years ago I came up with some tips for enjoying your Yellowstone vacation. I’ll put up the first five of those right now and more in the next post.
1. DO plan to camp or reserve lodgings in more than one place. A few nights in each of two to four locales will maximize what you’ll see and minimize driving time.
–BUT–
2. DON’T expect to see everything in one trip or visit too many different places. Allow time for the unexpected bison jam or to catch a second eruption of a phenomenal geyser.
3. Be prepared to do some walking. Going a mile or two away from any road, where you can get away from crowds, can be very enjoyable.
4. Include at least one area just outside the park in your itinerary: the Grand Tetons, Cody, Red Lodge, West Yellowstone, and the Gallatin Canyon are all good choices.
5. Know the Yellowstone seasons. At 7,000 to 8,000-foot elevations, the short spring does not come until sometime in May, and even then some roads may be blocked by snow. Autumn begins early in September, and winter is long! Bring layers of clothing but plenty of sunscreen.

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My ideas for a Yellowstone shuttle system

Categories: Transportation
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Yellowstone Park needs a shuttle system!

Although I know that the National Park Service has in the past considered inaugurating shuttle service in Yellowstone to alleviate road congestion and cut down on carbon emissions, perhaps the following plan has not yet been broached. I suggest that only the west side of this vast park could be well served by such a system. Here is my plan for a way we could accomplish this.

I believe that providing a convenient shuttle service would greatly relieve summer congestion and would be used willingly by many visitors. Shuttle usage would be voluntary, and private vehicles and tour buses would continue to be allowed on the roads along with the shuttles. If the shuttle service were to be modeled after those at Yosemite, Bryce, and particularly Zion National Parks, it would be free. Having recently visited Zion and Bryce, I enquired how the system is paid for and was told that the equipment is owned by the National Park Service but operated by a concessionaire (at Bryce it is McDonald Transit Associates). Park entrance fees cover the expenses of running the shuttles.

Shuttle particulars proposed for Yellowstone

Shuttles could serve visitors along the roads between Mammoth in the north of the park and Old Faithful in the south central part. On this route are the majority of interesting hydrothermal features, as well as many other features of interest and hiking trailheads. All visitors who come in private cars, if they stay more than a day or two, usually want to visit much if not all of this region.

My plan would serve visitors who leave their vehicles overnight or for several nights at Mammoth, West Yellowstone, or Old Faithful, or in the campgrounds at Norris or Madison. New parking areas might be required in some of these areas and could charge a reasonable fee for their use, something on the order of five to ten dollars per day. This parking fee could help to cover the cost of the shuttle system. The shuttle itself would be free and useable by any visitors or staff. Thus, people could go into and out of the park on the same day or, if staying in the park, could take belongings with them on the shuttle for several days’ use while staying in park facilities.

Since no travelers who come from far away would want to carry all their belongings around while touring by shuttle, shuttle travel would have to be coordinated with the concessionaires at Mammoth and Old Faithful and with the management of private lodgings in West Yellowstone. In other words, visitors would leave most of their belongings at one of the three locations, in hotel/motel rooms if staying in the same place for several nights. Or if, for example, they wanted to stay one night in Mammoth or West Yellowstone and then stay a night or more at Old Faithful and return for their cars, baggage storage rooms could be provided at the motels and some space on the shuttles could be used for smaller baggage.

Ideally, simple lunch rooms would be built by the NPS and run by the park concessionaire at Norris and Madison, utilizing part of the already-disturbed land in the present large parking lots.

To make this plan work, I would propose that shuttles run at least every twenty minutes and for twelve hours per day between the end points, maybe from 9 am to 9 pm seven days a week. They should operate from mid June through mid September. A fleet of at least thirty electric, hybrid, or propane shuttles would be needed. There should be two round-trip routes: Mammoth campground to and from Madison Junction and West Yellowstone to and from Old Faithful Village, with correspondence at Madison. This system would require several dozen drivers. The shuttles would be large vans holding twelve to fifteen passengers. They would stop at every point along the roads that has something of general interest. Granted, this would mean a lot of stops, but the stops would mostly be very brief. Lesser-known features along the roads, such as the panoramic view at Swan Lake above Mammoth or the Chocolate Pots south of Norris Junction, should be included in the stops made by the shuttles.

Most people would want to spend an hour or two at the major geyser basins but could easily time their visits to have a minimal wait for the next van, if they were spaced twenty minutes apart. Covered shelters with some seating would be needed at shuttle stops.
Here is an example of potential pick-up/drop-off points between Mammoth and Norris:
Mammoth Campground
Mammoth Hotel
Upper Terrace Drive
Bunsen Peak and other trailheads near Rustic Falls
Swan Lake Flat panorama
Sheepeater Cliffs side road
Indian Creek Campground
Apollinaris Spring and picnic area
Obsidian Cliff
Mount Holmes trailhead
Solfatara trailhead
Grizzly Lake trailhead
Clearwater Springs
Roaring Mountain
Norris Campground
Norris Geyser Basin

A similar list of stopping points would be set up between other major places of interest or village areas with campgrounds or accommodations, where cars would be left. A total of 30 to 35 stops might be made between Mammoth and Old Faithful. In addition to the regular shuttles that make many stops, express shuttles would ferry staff and visitors to and from their vehicles at the end points three or four times a day.

This system might eliminate more than half of the cars that use the roads between Old Faithful and West Yellowstone and Mammoth, saving fuel and cutting congestion on the roads, and improving the air quality and the overall Yellowstone experience.

2011

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