TRAILS IN AND ABOUT YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK.1
The following notes on Yellowstone trails were prepared for this publication by Mrs. Robert C. Morris, of New York City, after she returned from an extensive horseback tour of the park which occupied the entire summer of 1917.
There are various ways by which the park may be entered by trail, but the best starting points for trail trips are the hotels and camps in the park itself. Parties may be outfitted, however, at Gardiner, Mont.; West Yellowstone, Mont.; and Cody, Wyo. From Cody the road must be followed a considerable distance until trails can be reached.
Starting from the northern gateway at Gardiner, the trail of the old military road leads to Mammoth Hot Springs, and thence through Snow Pass to Swan Lake Flats and to the valley of the Gallatin River on the west side of the park, by way of either Sportsman Lake or Fawn Pass. There is a good camp site back of the hotel at Mammoth Hot Springs and another at Gardiner River, 7 miles from Mammoth Hot Springs, in the direction of Norris Geyser Basin. At the bridge near this latter camp site the Riverside Willow Park trail starts and leads westward to Riverside Ranger Station, where it connects with the trail running to Fountain Ranger Station. From the latter station the easterly section of the park may he reached by taking the trail up Nez Perce Creek.
Another trail from Gardiner into the park may be followed by crossing the Gardiner River just inside the line and following the Turkeypen trail until it strikes the road, and thence to the ranger station at Tower Falls, from which point the road to Cooke City, Mont., may be followed across the bridge spanning the Yellowstone River, and continuing until the bridge at the Lamar River is reached. At this point there are two trails which can be takenone leading to Slough Creek, the other back to Gardiner along the north bank of the Lamar and Yellowstone Rivers. These routes from Gardiner to the Lamar bridge and back are very attractive because of the country they traverse, which is high and rolling, with beautiful trees, abundant grass, and much wild life. Elk and antelope are frequently met, a few buffalo graze on the meadows and side hills, and in the wooded places there are many bear. The country can be readily traveled, and there are plenty of good camp sites with fine water.
About a mile after crossing the bridge at the Yellowstone, before mentioned, the Specimen Ridge trail leaves the road from the right-hand side and follows up the point of Specimen Ridge and along the westerly slope until reaching Amethyst Mountain, where it descends sharply down the valley of Chalcedony Creek to the valley of the Lamar, where connection may be made with the Mary Bay-Lamor River trail at the ford of the Lamar above the mouth of Soda Butte Creek. At the eastern end of Amethyst Mountain is located the great fossil forest. Here is a cliff composed of 12 different volcanic strata, and in each stratum can be seen standing the trunks of petrified trees. During 12 distinct geological epochs forests thrived here and be buried by volcanic material. Some trunks stand as high as 40 feet, and they vary from 1 to 10 feet in diameter. Redwood, walnut, oak, and many other trees not now growing in the park have been identified.
The trail to Slough Creek leaves the road on the other side of the Lamar bridge and runs thence through a canyon, continuing up the valley of Slough Creek until it leaves the park at the Ames ranch. From this point the Tucker Creek trail can be taken over the mountains to Buffalo Fork, and from there over a high plateau and down to Hellroaring River, which can be readily forded. From this ford a well-defined trail leads over the mountains by the old mining town of Jardine, Mont., from whence the road must be followed back to Gardiner. This route from Slough Creek to Gardiner runs through the Absaroka National Forest, which is one of the few accessible places adjacent to the park still open to big game hunting. The best camp sites are along the three streams, Hellroaring River, Buffalo Fork, and Slough Creek.
On leaving the Ames ranch a trip by trail may be continued outside of the park up Slough Creek past Duret's ranch to Lake Abundance, at either end of which are good sites for a camp. This lake received its name because of the abundance of fish to be found in its waters, and, although it is much visited, the supply seems to be inexhaustible.
Leaving Lake Abundance the trail runs to the Stillwater Basin, where it branches, one part leading to Cooke City and the other down the Stillwater River, a two days' journey, to the ranch lands in the foothills of the Absaroka Range. This trail is rough but entirely passable. The trail to Cooke City is about 9 miles in length from Lake Abundance.
Cooke City, a quaint little mining camp, is a rare reminder of pioneer days. It is surrounded by some of the most imposing mountains in this section, and radiating from it are numerous paths which can be followed on horseback. One may go up into the Granite Range to Goose Lake, which lies at an altitude of 10,000 feet, by a rough wagon road, a distance of about 12 miles.
Goose Lake is volcanic in its surroundings, but sufficient grazing for horses can be found there; and from the head of the lake a gradual climb of about a mile and a half brings one to the Grasshopper Glacier, so named because of the fact that the remains of grasshoppers are embedded in the ice where they were caught by a snow storm at some remote time in a flight across the pass. This glacier is the source of the West Rosebud River, which forms itself into a series of lakes and is practically inaccessible.
Another trail from Cooke City follows the wagon road to Clarks Fork and thence to the southward over Dead Indian Hill through Sunlight Basin to Cody, where the road leads back into the park over Sylvan Pass to Yellowstone Lake. In starting from Cody this route can be reversed if desired.
Many trails lead from Cooke City into the rough and jagged Granite Range to beautiful and seldom-visited lakes and streams, where excellent fishing may be obtained. There is also the main road leading back into the park, which may be followed to the Lamar River.
On the upper waters of the Lamar are various tributary creeks. One of these is Cache Creek, on which is located Death Gulch, a place where deadly fumes are said to issue from the ground and where Wahb, that famous grizzly of fiction, passed on to the happy hunting grounds of his fathers. Another is Miller Creek, leading to the Hoodoo region, a section of weird and fantastic formations, which was regarded by the Indians in the old days with superstitious awe.
From the Lamar River a trail may be struck as shown on the map, which will lead to Mary Bay on Yellowstone Lake, or where the Cody road is encountered it may be followed past Pahaska Tepee, Buffalo Bill's former hunting lodge, to Cody. This road can be taken from Cody, either to reverse the trail above described or to strike the trail leading to Mary Bay for the trip to the south around Yellowstone Lake.
Taking the trail at Mary Bay a trip can be made to one of the most unfrequented portions of the park, which lies east and south of Yellowstone Lake. For several miles the pebble beach of the eastern shore of the lake is followed, though at times the shore line is left and the forest entered, affording attractive scenes through glades which form vistas of water and distant mountains. From some of the rocky headlands a sweeping view of from 50 to 60 miles may be obtained. At the southern end of the lake the trail follows the valley of the upper Yellowstone River to Bridger Lake, which lies at the foot of Hawks Rest, and in which excellent fishing can be had. This valley is one vast tract of beaver operations, and moose abound as well as other large game, such as elk, deer, and bear. The mountains to the east are rugged and picturesque. The Trident and Colters Peak loom impressively, forming an ever-changing aspect while following the trail.
From Bridger Lake a trail can be taken over Two Ocean Pass by following up Atlantic Creek and down Pacific Creek to the famous Jackson Hole country. Two Ocean Pass presents one of the most remarkable geological phenomena in the world; here two streams, one flowing north and the other south, empty into a pass which runs east and west. Each stream divides, one-half of it flows east to the Atlantic, the other half west to the Pacific, thus forming a continuous water route over the Continental Divide. It is assumed that it was by this way that trout first worked into Yellowstone Lake, which is otherwise naturally inaccessible to them owing to the two falls of the Yellowstone River.
At the old snowshoe cabin on Thorofare Creek, which empties into the Yellowstone River about 2 miles north of the park line, the south boundary trail can be struck and followed westward to the west boundary of the park. This trail crosses the Continental Divide and Big Game Ridge and then follows down the Snake River Valley to the Snake River Ranger Station. Crossing Big Game Ridge one of the most extended and beautiful views of the park is obtained. Heart Lake is plainly seen, with Mount Sheridan and the Tetons in all their majesty. Much game may be observed, as this is one of the favorite summer ranges of the elk, which roam this country in countless herds.
On leaving the ranger station at Snake River the road can be taken south to Jackson Lake and Moran, Wyo. The Jackson Hole country is a veritable paradise for fishermen, and it also is one of the most beautiful sections of this country from a scenic standpoint, as it is barricaded by the Teton Range of snow-covered peaks rising to an altitude of nearly 14,000 feet. From Snake River Ranger Station the trail to the west connects with the west boundary at Bechler Ranger Station.
As will be seen by the map a trail branches to the northward at a point on the westerly base of Big Game Ridge, which leads to Heart Lake, where large native trout may be caught. This lake is dominated on the west by impressive Mount Sheridan and is very picturesque. The trail leads on to Lewis Lake, which is beside the main road running between Yellowstone Lake and Jackson Hole. From Lewis Lake the road must be followed north about 2 miles, where the trail strikes northwest to Shoshone Lake outlet. This lake is noted for its enormous Mackinaw trout and is an ideal spot for the fisherman.
Leaving the outlet the trail can be followed in two waysone, around the eastern end along De Lacy Creek and through Norris Pass to the road between Upper Basin and the Thumb, and thence either to Yellowstone Lake or to Old Faithful; the other leads by the south side of the lake up Shoshone Creek to Lone Star Geyser, which is 4 miles by road to Old Faithful. From Old Faithful, which is at Upper Basin, the trail runs westward past Summit Lake to the west boundary of the park, which is followed by a trail for a distance of about 56 miles north and south, the south trail leading to Bechler Ranger Station and the north trail to Gallatin Ranger Station.
From Upper Basin the road must be taken for about 9 miles until Nez Perce Creek is reached, up which one can travel on the old military trail which Gen. O. O. Howard made when in pursuit of Chief Joseph on the wonderful march of that great warrior in the Indian campaign of 1877. The route passes Mary Lake and continues to Alum Creek. This creek runs through Hayden Valley, a great rolling prairie where the wild buffalo formerly roamed and where now vast bands of elk can be seen during the summer months. From the point where Alum Creek intercepts the road the distance is about 3 miles to the Canyon Hotel and about 2 miles to the Canyon Camp. Before reaching the camp the graceful Chittenden Bridge over the Yellowstone River must be crossed. At the easterly end of this bridge is a trail leading up the east side of the Yellowstone Valley to the bridge crossing the river at the outlet of the lake. Here the road can be followed eastward to Indian Pond, where striking to the south the trail may be found which runs to Mary Bay for the upper Yellowstone. This road also leads to Cody and the Lamar River trail is met about a quarter of a mile east of Indian Pond.
Both the Canyon Hotel and the Canyon Camp have various trails branching out from them which offer day trips; but the main trails are to Norris Basin by way of Cascade Lake, Grebe Lake, Virginia Meadows, and the road, and to Tower Falls by way of Blacktail Ridge Trail to Petrified Trees and the road to Tower Falls Ranger Station.
There is also an excellent trailand, by the way, this is one of the oldest trails in the parkwhich leaves the Inspiration Point road at the glacial boulder known as the Devil's Watchcharm and follows around the easterly base of Mount Washburn to Tower Creek bridge, where it joins the road to Tower Falls Ranger Station, and branch trails may be taken to the top of the mountain from either side. It is in good condition and presents a most attractive route, passing through a section of beautiful scenery and towering mountains.
From Tower Falls, as has been previously stated, connecting trails can be found reaching the north boundary by the way of Slough Creek and the trail on the north bank of the Lamar and Yellowstone Rivers back to Gardiner.
The traveler by horse, or the camper, need not confine himself to the trails here described, as there are many directions in which he can go if he will do some pioneer work. These notes are merely intended to give a general view of the leading trails in an extensive system which is being developed from year to year.
Last Updated: 16-Feb-2010