GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Accompanying travelers to the national park since 2002

All posts tagged hiking

Another in the occasional series “My Favorite Hot Springs”

Black Sand Basin, showing Rainbow Pool and Sunset Lake. Click to enlarge!


In any piece I write about Yellowstone, it may be hazardous to say this or that is my favorite. Here is what I committed myself to when I wrote about Black Sand Basin—maybe because in my summer visits I always spend a few days at Old Faithful Village, very nearby. “Black Sand Basin has got to be my favorite easy walk,” I wrote. “In less than a mile of walking you can enjoy a welcoming geyser (Cliff Geyser), which may be erupting as you get out of your car, then Rainbow Pool and Sunset Lake to the north.” (See “Yellowstone gems we all own” for more.)

The above is still valid, but this week, daydreaming about being back in the park, I am mentally picturing the half-mile or so of mostly level walking needed to see all the features at West Thumb Geyser Basin. (There is a short stairway at the far end of the loop.) This walk is surely another favorite of mine but requires a drive of about 19 miles from Old Faithful. It is also a place where I lost track of my husband for about an hour during the last summer he was well enough to travel, but that’s another story.

West Thumb has a lot of the quintessential “bang for the buck.” It is a delightful place to spend an hour or so, not only for its thermal features but also for its beautiful view of Yellowstone Lake. In winter it is just as great a place for a stroll. Unfortunately, it lacks geysers—although Hillside Geyser was active here for a few years earlier this century. There is generous parking, restrooms, and a picnic area for summer lunches.

Starting out past the small information building, when you turn right at the walkway’s intersection, you’ll come to a pair of beautiful hot pools, which used to differ in color and apparent temperature, but in summer 2016 and perhaps before, they overflowed into each other. Other pools that are especially notable include Black Pool, which did used to appear black but became blue when it turned hotter (and even briefly erupted in 1991) and Abyss Pool, one of the park’s deepest, which performed as a geyser as recently as 1992.

All these pools are described and some are pictured in Yellowstone Treasures, fifth edition, pages 140 to 143. Scroll down on the Guidebook page to see what pages 138-39 look like, with a map of Yellowstone Lake’s West Thumb and a photo of Bluebell and Seismograph Pools.

Photo credit: Aerial view of Rainbow Pool and Sunset Lake in Black Sand Basin on Iron Spring Creek by Jim Peaco,
June 22, 2006. Available on the official Yellowstone National Park Flickr page.

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NPS Yellowstone Canyon Closures Map As this lovely map from the National Park Service website shows, the Canyon area is filled with construction projects that are going to improve safety and accessibility for people, and only some of them have been finished. The map is from October 11 and does not include the Uncle Tom’s Point project that was finished on October 20, 2018. (Tap or click the image for a larger version.) For example, the Brink of Upper Falls is closed for construction through the summer of 2019. And the portion of the North Rim Trail between Brink of the Lower Falls and Chittenden Bridge is still closed.

Here’s the good news: the Uncle Tom’s Point reconstruction that was completed on October 20 added new walkways and improved overlooks with views of Upper Falls. Canyon Overlook and Sunset Point are wheelchair-accessible, and you will now be able to walk the South Rim Trail to Chittenden Bridge in 0.87 miles (1.4 km).

There’s more to come for trails through Yellowstone National Park. Mount Washburn trails and trailheads closed for the season on July 12, 2018. They are reconstructing the trail and building a telecommunications structure at the historic Mount Washburn fire lookout. Also, on October 15 Fishing Bridge closed for construction, and more recently a boardwalk on Geyser Hill had to be closed due to activity underneath. On Twitter? Follow us (@GPPublications) and the park itself (@YellowstoneNPS) to keep informed about trail changes and improvements.

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Here is my answer to the 6/11/18 question on the Quora website: What are some sights to see in two days at Yellowstone National Park? (BTW, Two days is not nearly enough for a place as large as Yellowstone.)

Grand Prismatic Spring, the same one that is featured on the cover of “Through Early Yellowstone”


The century-long-and-then-some favorites are the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River with its two great waterfalls and Old Faithful Geyser. But before or after the always-predictable Old Faithful eruption take the Geyser Hill walk with or without an interpretive ranger and enjoy lovely hot springs and the possibility of other geysers going off. The other most remarkable sight near Old Faithful (a few miles north of it) is Midway Geyser Basin, but you *must* get there early or late in the day to find parking.

Be ready to stop as you drive between these major attractions, since there are pleasant surprises (sometimes including wildlife) all along the roads.

Photo credit: Grand Prismatic Spring in Midway Geyser Basin, taken by Bruno Giletti, can be seen on page 65 of Yellowstone Treasures, updated fifth edition.

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Why we say it is Yellowstone National Park’s birthday today

Categories: History, Through Early Yellowstone
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1872 Yellowstone act excerpt

Excerpt from page 50 of Through Early Yellowstone

On the first of March in 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the bill setting aside “the tract of land in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming, lying near the head-waters of the Yellowstone river,” creating the nation’s first national park at Yellowstone. We reproduce the text of that act in our historical anthology, Through Early Yellowstone, to share with other readers what this foresightful law was meant to do. This land was “set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” And the act continues to inspire governments to dedicate land for conservation throughout the world—just look at Chile and Peru for recent examples.

The month of March in Yellowstone also means that park roads start to close to oversnow travel, in preparation for plowing and reopening in April and May. While the road from the North Entrance (Gardiner) to the Northeast Entrance (Cooke City) is open year-round, today at 9 pm the road from the East Entrance to Lake Butte Overlook (Sylvan Pass) closes to snowcoaches and snowmobiles, and other roads follow throughout the next two weeks. Conditions permitting, there is also a schedule for reopening the roads for motorized traffic. See the Park Roads page at https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkroads.htm.

This period between closing the park roads to oversnow travel and reopening them is a time when cyclists and hikers can travel the roads but car drivers are not allowed. See the National Park Service’s Spring & Fall Bicycling page to learn about the regulations and reminders, since you must still share the road with bears, administrative vehicles, and snow removal equipment. No services are available within the park during the spring shoulder season.

—Editor and Publisher, Beth Chapple

Updated August 20, 2018.

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Road Closure in Fall 2017

Categories: News, Trip planning
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Map from the guidebook’s Mammoth to Norris road log

In the most recent edition of Yellowstone Treasures you’ll find this note: “Construction on the Norris to Mammoth road is scheduled to continue through 2018.” Here is the latest report on the construction.

Since June 11, the Norris to Mammoth road has been closed nightly from 10 pm to 7 am (excluding Saturday nights). The word is to expect 30-minute delays in the daytime when driving between Roaring Mountain (the magenta dot east of the road on this map) and the Indian Creek Campground (the tent icon down a short side road, almost opposite the Sheepeater Cliff picnic area). According to trip reports on the Facebook group Yellowstone Up Close and Personal, the daytime delays are usually not as long as 30 minutes.

The important news is that from September 10 (10 pm) to October 6 (7 am), this section of road will be closed to all traffic (day and night). During the closures, people will be able to detour over Dunraven Pass (between Tower Fall and Canyon).

Norris and Indian Creek Campgrounds, at opposite ends of the road segment, are remaining open during the season. During the road closure you will not be able to see Apollinaris Spring, nor Obsidian Cliff, nor will you be able to hike the Mount Holmes Trail. You can still hike the Bunsen Peak Trail from the north.

Remember to check the National Park Service’s Park Roads page before you head out.

CREDIT: Linton Brown revised this map for Yellowstone Treasures, Updated Fifth Edition (2017). You can find it on page 277.

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This quote by lbrock21 accompanied a five-star Amazon review of the Kindle e-book on August 25, 2014. Readers are finding several advantages to getting a travel guide in electronic format, including saving weight while traveling. We released the updated fifth edition of Yellowstone Treasures in three e-book formats on June 30, 2017: ePub, Kindle, and PDF. All three offer live links to other parts of the book and sites on the Web, along with helpful full-color maps. Many e-book stores also offer the opportunity to get a free sample.
Yellowstone Treasures 5th edition cover

Readers find both the list of maps in the Table of Contents and the “54 Recommended Short Walks in Yellowstone” table to be handy, because they are organized by road log section in the same order as the guidebook. For example, if you find yourself at Canyon, you can see that all seven recommended walks on the chart can be found on the map on page 179 (a map completely revised for 2017).

Because the new Yellowstone Treasures ePub and Kindle versions have text that flows differently on every e-reader, they benefit from fully hyperlinked indexes that will get you to each topic or image. A quirk of the ePub is that text flow works best in portrait view for this e-book.

The PDF, on the other hand, retains the page numbering of the print book, so you can find topics by page number. Links go from the text nearby, not the page numbers. Look for the hand cursor. For example, on page 318 it says “a hydrothermal explosion such as the one that formed West Thumb Bay (see pages 138-39).” You can either put 138 into the page search box at the top (in Adobe Reader, for example) or click/tap on the words “West Thumb Bay” to get to the same place, where Janet explains how it’s a small caldera.

Here are a couple of tips that will help you get around with Yellowstone Treasures on different e-readers. In the ePub on the iPad, you can double-tap on an image or map to enlarge it. On the Kindle or Kindle app for iPad instead, you spread two fingers apart to zoom in, and then tap the x in the corner to close the image and continue.

As Ann Kristin Lindaas wrote us in April 2016 from Norway,

“I have already bought the print book and I really enjoy it. Essential for planning my days in Yellowstone! I will be traveling the US for about a month in September and I’m hoping to bring electronic versions of most of the books I’ve bought.”

Here’s to enjoying books in whatever form you choose! Cordially, Beth Chapple, editor and publisher.

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What happened to Yellowstone Treasures’ recommended trails?

Categories: Trip planning
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What happened to the number of trails we recommend between the fourth and fifth editions of Yellowstone Treasures?

Between publication of our fourth edition in 2013 and fifth edition in 2017, the number of recommended hiking trails in our short walks table (pages 366 to 368) shrank from fifty-six trails to fifty-four. Here’s what happened in the interim.

First, the good news: We now recommend one formerly omitted trail; the access to it reopened after a construction project was completed. This is the level Fairy Falls and Imperial Geyser Trail, about 6.4 miles round trip, described on page 67. Two projects completed just last month (July 2017) add to the lure of this trail. A large new parking lot makes the trail accessible to more people. Even better, a side trail with steps now leads steeply up the hill above the incredible Grand Prismatic Spring for a view almost equal to those you see in pictures taken from the air.

Fairy Falls

Fairy Falls tumbles off the Madison Plateau, by James St. John, August 5, 2012, Flickr
Click or tap for a much larger version

The three trails no longer on our recommended list are: from the Old Faithful Village area, part of the Mallard Lake Trail; from the West Thumb to Fishing Bridge segment, Lakeshore Trail, east segment; and from the Mammoth Junction to Norris Junction road segment, the Superintendent’s Campground Road Trail. I’ll explain why these are no longer in our trails table.

Until a few years ago, one could hike the Mallard Lake Trail for a short distance to see some hot pools and mud pots called the Pipeline Group, named for a former pipeline that ran in the area. Now those features are closed off to hikers.

The part of the Lakeshore Trail that led east from the meadow below Lake Lodge to Fishing Bridge is no longer maintained. And the Superintendent’s Campground Road from the Indian Creek Campground is also now closed off by park administration.

This leaves us with only fifty-four shorter trails to recommend. Maybe if you stayed all summer, you could do them all. . . .

Please be aware that some trails on both rims of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone are currently under construction. When you are at the Canyon Visitor Center be sure to ask which trails are open.

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My hike to Narrow Gauge Terrace in June

Categories: Flora and Fauna, Thermal features, Trip Reports
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Finally in June this year Janet and I got the chance to travel to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons together. Janet was there on a longer road trip, but we spent several days together at Old Faithful and Norris Geyser Basins, as well as at Colter Bay and the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve in Grand Teton National Park, and then some time in Gardiner and Bozeman, Montana, too. No doubt we will gradually share some of our adventures over the coming months. One day I drove back to Mammoth Hot Springs on my own.

The story I am ready to tell is the hike I got to take from the Mammoth main terrace to Narrow Gauge Terrace. Enjoy!
—Beth, editor and publisher

https://www.slideshare.net/BethChapple/beyond-mammoth-hot-springs

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Plans for the Yellowstone grizzly

Categories: News, On the Web, Wildlife
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Grizzly bear on Swan Lake Flats, Yellowstone

Grizzly bear on Swan Lake Flats, Yellowstone

Grizzly bears have been in the news in recent years. First, because human-bear conflicts have been more numerous, including a total of six deaths of people since 2010. Managing these conflicts and the bear predation on cattle means about twenty grizzlies are intentionally killed or removed to zoos per year (see this database if you are interested). In 2016 the news is that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to take them off the Endangered Species list by the end of the year. The National Park Service put together an informative page about the history of efforts to help the Yellowstone-area grizzly recover, including listing it and delisting it, plus explaining how to minimize encounters with bears and ensure your safety if you do accidentally come close to one. You can find the article here: “Grizzly Bears and the Endangered Species Act.” The most recent delisting was in 2007, but a court ruling overturned that and put them back on the threatened species list in 2009.

Here’s a quick list of safety points, courtesy of the NPS. When backcountry hiking, you can reduce the odds of being injured by a bear by following these five rules:

  1. Hike in groups of three or more people.
  2. Stay alert.
  3. Make noise in areas with poor visibility.
  4. Carry bear spray.
  5. Don’t run during encounters with bears.

The grizzly bear population has made a remarkable recovery, to about 700 individuals in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. So why is delisting controversial? Some are worried about plans for hunting in the surrounding states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. For a March 20, 2016, article that quotes the state governors on the subject, see “US seeks end to Yellowstone grizzly protections” on the Explore Big Sky website.

Do you have an opinion on this subject? Isn’t this photo beautiful? Write your informed comment below.
—Editor Beth

Photo by Jim Peaco for the National Park Service, June 2005.

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Bear safety

Categories: Trip planning, Wildlife
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Grizzly bear from page 344 of Yellowstone Treasures, 4th ed.

Grizzly bear from page 344 of Yellowstone Treasures, 4th ed.

In a recent press release about preparing for fall, Yellowstone National Park rangers remind us that the park is bear country. Here’s their advice.

In the fall, grizzly bears and black bears usually move to higher elevations to feed on whitebark pine seeds, and consume the calories they need to sustain themselves during winter hibernation, but they may be encountered along roads or hiking trails throughout the park. When hiking or backpacking, remember to travel in groups of three or more, make noise on the trail, and be alert for bears. All hikers should always carry bear spray so that it is readily accessible—not inside a pack—and know how to use it. Bear spray is proven to be highly successful at stopping aggressive behavior in bears. It is sold at bookstores, gift shops, outdoor stores, and service stations inside the park, as well as in many stores in the surrounding communities. New this year, bear spray is now available for rent at Canyon Village in a kiosk near the Canyon Visitor Education Center through late September.

Park regulations require people to stay a minimum of 100 yards (the length of a football field) away from bears and wolves at all times. If you see a bear along the road, move off the road and park on the shoulder or in a pullout and stay in your vehicle to watch the bear. Use your binoculars, telescope, or telephoto lens to get a closer look at the bear rather than approaching the bear.

Happy wildlife watching, and stay safe!
—Beth Chapple, editor at Granite Peak Publications

Photo credit: Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Yellowstone National Park

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