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

All posts tagged trails

Crystal Falls Yellowstone

Crystal Falls from Uncle Toms Overlook on the Canyon’s South Rim


While visiting Uncle Tom’s Overlook to see Upper Falls, I was also looking at how far the reconstruction projects have gotten. I noticed the improvements to the walls, the ongoing construction of the viewpoint at the Brink of Upper Falls, and the new paved trail to Sunset Point, which had a colony of marmots to watch when I visited. (See the Yellowstone trail reconstruction in 2018 post for more about the plans and a nice map.)

But the most exciting aspect for me on my late June 2019 visit was seeing this waterfall. The description from the 2018 edition of Yellowstone Treasures goes like this: “little Crystal Falls across the canyon, obscured by branches” (p. 180). Well, granted, I did have to use binoculars and my camera’s zoom function to appreciate it. See below for how the description can still be called accurate. There is a trail to see this waterfall on Cascade Creek that pours down into the Yellowstone River, but the easiest way to reach it is temporarily off limits as construction crews use the parking lot to work on the Brink of Upper Falls viewpoint.

Enjoy! —Editor Beth Chapple

Crystal Falls in the trees

Look to the right when you are at Uncle Tom’s Point to see this waterfall.

Share Button

Yellowstone trail reconstruction in 2018

Categories: News
Comments Off on Yellowstone trail reconstruction in 2018

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.

Share Button

This summer in Yellowstone National Park

Categories: Park environs, Trip planning
Comments Off on This summer in Yellowstone National Park

Recently we had an email conversation with a reader who wrote in via our contact form. With his permission, we are reproducing it here, lightly edited. You may find it helpful when planning your own trip.

1937 Yellowstone Bus Everett Washington

1937 Yellow bus from Yellowstone Park, on display at Historic Flight Foundation, Everett, Washington

July 23, 2018
Hi Janet,

I am reading your book Yellowstone Treasures. It’s very nicely written and packed with tons of information. Thank you from a first-time visitor like me.

I will be traveling for the first time to the park in the first week of August with my family and friends. The location we chose to stay in that was affordable is outside the west side of the park. I am coming over from Canada.

I will be staying for five days. Is this time enough? I have divided the park in 4 segments, and each day I will be entering the park from the west. Is this approach right? What are some of the things that I must absolutely need to know? Does the park have wheelchair facilities? My friends’ parents are in their 80’s and won’t be able to do long walks. Does the park have rentals for golf-cart-type vehicles?

I will really appreciate your guidance and help. Thank you in advance for your response.

Warm regards,
Sameer


Recommended Walks in Yellowstone July 26, 2018
Dear Sameer,

Thank you for your kind comments about the guidebook. I put your questions to the author, Janet, and she asked me to write back to you.

There is never time enough to see everything, unless you stay all summer! However, the most essential sights are on Yellowstone’s west side. Be sure to allow one or two days for the area between Norris Geyser Basin and the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, where there are so many fabulous thermal features to stop for. “My other personal favorites are the Mammoth Hot Springs area and the Lamar Valley,” says Janet. Don’t try to see everything since you need to allow time for travel and meals. Rather than seeing all your four segments, maybe choose two or three? If you do want to see the east or south sides of the park, look for lodging in Cody or Dubois, Wyoming, since those can be cheaper than lodging in the park or Jackson.

You will be in the park at its busiest time, so expect bumper-to-bumper traffic on some of the roads. If you can start very early in the mornings, you will do yourselves a favor. It’s always a good idea to check the official NPS Park Roads page the map showing current road status and for the closing dates of various roads. Another way to beat the crowds is to bring picnic food and drinks in a cooler for your lunches and snacks. Yellowstone Treasures tells you about the picnic areas.

You also asked if the park has wheelchair facilities and if the park has rentals for golf carts. The visitor centers at Old Faithful, Canyon, and Mammoth will loan you wheelchairs, or you can rent them at the medical clinics (Old Faithful, Mammoth, and Lake). See the NPS Wheelchairs & Mobility page for more information. But there are no golf-cart vehicles. One of the most rewarding short walks is around Black Sand Basin, the nearest short side road to Old Faithful Village, and of course Yellowstone Treasures has a list of more short walks on pages 366-68. And be sure to check the guidebook’s maps for the wheelchair symbol on trails and restrooms.

Another option to look at for your friends’ parents is one of the many yellow bus tours (see Xanterra’s Land Adventures page).

Enjoy your trip!
Beth Chapple

Editor and Publisher
Granite Peak Publications

Share Button

Encourage teens to join the Youth Conservation Corps

Categories: News
Comments Off on Encourage teens to join the Youth Conservation Corps

Yellowstone youth conservation corps members

Youth Conservation Corps members at Inspiration Point, Yellowstone National Park (NPS photo, circa 2012)


The National Park Service is announcing that the deadline to apply for one of the two month-long sessions at Yellowstone this summer is rapidly approaching: March 1, 2018. This will be the 29th straight year that the Youth Conservation Corps is offered in Yellowstone National Park. Sixty young people between the ages of 15 and 18 can participate in this program, which has educational, recreational, and work aspects. Teens help NPS staff with trail and campground restoration, resource management, visitor support, maintenance, and more. “Applicants should possess a positive attitude, a willingness and ability to work in a physically active outdoor program, and get along well with others,” according to the press release. What a great opportunity! For more information and to obtain the application, see the YCC page on the official Yellowstone National Park website.

Share Button

Happy Birthday, NPS

Categories: News
Comments Off on Happy Birthday, NPS

August 25th is the official 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service. Every year the national parks offer free admission on this day, but for the centennial the free days have been extended through the weekend, to August 28th. Enjoy!

Yellowstone Park is holding a big, sold-out celebration at Arch Park at the North Entrance, with shuttles from Gardiner. If you didn’t get a ticket, you can still participate virtually via Livestream.

If you do have plans to visit Yellowstone any time soon, be sure to keep track of the fires and other construction and road alerts at the official Yellowstone website. Sean Reichard has written several posts recently about the various fires being fought. Here is one of his articles this week: “More trails close as fires grow in Yellowstone National Park.”

Share Button

Celebrating the National Park Service’s 99th birthday—in a couple of ways

Categories: History, Janet Chapple's Other Writing, News, Through Early Yellowstone
Comments Off on Celebrating the National Park Service’s 99th birthday—in a couple of ways

First I want to pass along the fact that next Tuesday, August 25th, is the NPS’s birthday. The good news is that all national park entrance fees will be waived that day. So, if you have time to visit a park that’s not too far from you and can stay only one day, that would be a good day to go.

Next, I hope many people who normally read my blog posts have been visiting Yellowstone or another park this month, since there’s been nothing new to read on this website since August first. Editor Beth has been both flying and sailing (but not in Yellowstone), while author Janet has stayed earthbound and had time to catch up on work that needs doing for her next Yellowstone book. This new book will be a historical anthology full of good things to read and look at. So I’m celebrating the NPS birthday by beginning to reveal bit by bit what’s in my new book as we approach next spring’s publication date. I’ve mentioned the upcoming book twice before on my blog; on October 6, 2014, and March 3, 2015, I was calling it Magnificent Playground: Early Yellowstone in Words and Watercolors, but now we’ve decided on a title that gives a better idea of what’s in the book.

Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis offers a potpourri of historical articles that are both important to Yellowstone history and fun to read. There are ten major stories in this book but also several short selections—what I call snippets of information and historical ambience. All will give readers a feeling for the gradual change in the ways of enjoying, using, and also studying the world’s first national park. The selections span the time between establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872 and the country’s entry into World War One.

I’ll let you know as the months go by more about what Through Early Yellowstone contains, but today I want to tell you about one of the amazing people we feature who have contributed to the park’s history.

~ ~ ~

Here’s the headline of a one-page article, in which the editors saw fit to honor a woman resident of New York City who was an avid horsewoman.
MorrisNYTMheadline
In the early 1900s Mrs. Robert C. Morris (Alice Parmelee Morris) had become enamored with the scenery of Yellowstone Park and spent many summers at the Silver Tip Ranch just north of the park. Then in 1917 Mrs. Morris conceived, financed, and carried out her remarkable plan to explore and map an interconnected loop of trails throughout the park and its environs. At that time Yellowstone Park trails totaled about 400 miles—but not all were suitable for equestrian traffic. Mrs. Morris spent four summer months leading her pack train throughout the park. She presented a twenty-nine-page typed report, “Notes on Trail Study in Yellowstone Park 1917,” to Park Supervisor Chester A. Lindsley. Included with the report was a detailed and professionally produced map showing the proposed trails, which we will reproduce along with the New York Times article in the anthology.

So what became of this report that Mrs. Morris worked out so carefully? No evidence of action taken on her work turns up in a search of Yellowstone Park archives. One can speculate, however, that there could have been several reasons for this.

First, lack of funds: a request to Congress for $50,000 for a system of trails and bridle paths in Yellowstone went nowhere. This is not surprising—the bill was submitted on the exact date of President Woodrow Wilson’s request to Congress for a declaration of war with Germany: April 2, 1917.

Second, administrative turmoil between the National Park Service and Yellowstone: in 1917 and 1918 there was disagreement as to which agency was in charge of roads and trails, since the NPS (created in 1916) was gradually replacing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for such construction projects.

Third, low priority: automobiles had almost completely replaced horses in the park. In 1918, for example, among the park’s 35,039 tourists, only 808 came in horse-drawn vehicles. The number of people who came on horseback is not recorded but must have been very small.

Fourth, two other Yellowstone enthusiasts contributed their own plans to the park administration: long-time park employee Milton P. Skinner and pack-trip leader Howard Eaton had both worked on the question of improving the trails, and both submitted plans. Mrs. Morris’s plan was scarcely acknowledged. Some money must have been found for trails after the war, however, since in 1923 a complete system of trails was dedicated to Howard Eaton.

Share Button

Precipitation in Yellowstone—but not at the best time

Categories: News, Trip planning
Comments Off on Precipitation in Yellowstone—but not at the best time

Although the Beartooth Highway and Dunraven Pass opened on time yesterday (May 22), cold and rainy weather is the norm right now in Yellowstone.

There was less snow than normal again this winter, following a decades-long trend, but the park service announced a rain-caused trail closure on Wednesday. Recent heavy rain and snow caused a rock and mud slide across the Brink of the Lower Falls trail, and the popular trail is closed until conditions dry out and the trail can be cleared. Yellowstone Canyon District Ranger Tim Townsend said, “Right now the entire slope above the trail is still wet and unstable, making it unsafe for crews to work in the area.”

From page 185 of Yellowstone Treasures, here’s the thrilling view you will not be able to access until the trail is rebuilt.YT_pg185_2015-05-23 at 4.18.34 PM

Share Button

What you can find in the guidebook

Categories: Trip planning
Comments Off on What you can find in the guidebook

Janet Chapple on Mount Washburn

Author Janet Chapple poses among wildflowers at the start of the Mount Washburn trail.

Are you planning your first big trip to Yellowstone National Park? With Yellowstone Treasures you can figure out the distances between various gateway towns and parts of the park, what time of year is the best time for you to visit, and where you should plan to stay. The book tells you all about the campgrounds and lodgings in the park, plus listing resources for exploring the national forest campgrounds and town motels on all sides of the park. There are also lists of what to see, recommended hikes, and helpful maps, all of which Janet describes in “The Features of Yellowstone Treasures.”

Once you are there, the road log format lets you figure out what you will come to just ahead—a picnic area, a hot spring, the chance to see bison, a waterfall—there are so many possibilities! Here’s an excerpt of the road log from the East Entrance to Fishing Bridge Junction. You get details about how strenuous a hike is, where to park, which mountains you can see at a particular viewpoint, and even how many picnic tables there are. Janet checked out every spot in the road guide and hiked on every trail she recommends, sometimes multiple times.

You may wonder, do I need to travel by car to use Yellowstone Treasures? Janet feels that even people who go through the park by bus would enjoy a copy of her book, both while in the park and afterward. Though they would not benefit from the mileage indications between points of interest, every other facet of the book should be useful, including maps, pictures, and planning aids.

—Editor Beth Chapple

Share Button

Recommended walks in Yellowstone Park

Categories: Trip planning, Winter
Comments Off on Recommended walks in Yellowstone Park

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.

Share Button

White Creek and Yellowstone Treasures

Categories: Thermal features
Comments Off on White Creek and Yellowstone Treasures

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.

Share Button