You could spend your lifetime exploring Yellowstone National Park. Here are some more of our favorite places and things to do in the Mammoth Hot Springs Area. From home, take an online tour of the Mammoth Hot Springs area, join park rangers as they describe the features and processes of Mammoth Hot Springs in two-minute Inside Yellowstone videos, or see what's happening now on the Mammoth Hot Springs webcams: Travertine Terraces and Parade Grounds and Officers' Row.
More Mammoth Hot Springs Area Highlights
Watch Wildlife in the Gardner River Canyon
The North Entrance Road from Gardiner, Montana, to Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming, runs along the Gardner River. The road winds into the park, up the canyon, past crumbling walls of sandstone and ancient mudflows. The vegetation is much thicker in the canyon than on the open prairie down below, the common trees being Rocky Mountain juniper, cottonwood, and Douglas-fir. Low-growing willows also crowd the river's edge in the flatter, flood-prone sections of the canyon.
Watch for wildlife in season: eagles, osprey, dippers, and kingfishers along the river and bighorn sheep in the steeper parts of the canyon.
Reach the Top of Bunsen Peak
Bunsen Peak and the "Bunsen burner" were both named for the German physicist, Robert Wilhelm Bunsen. Although most people are familiar with the "Bunsen burner," few people know why his students gave the burner that name. He was involved in pioneering research about geysers, and a "Bunsen burner" has a resemblance to a geyser. His theory on geysers was published in the 1800s, and it is still believed to be accurate.
Bunsen Peak is 8,564 feet high (2,612 meters) and may be climbed via a trail that starts at the Golden Gate. Another trail, the old Bunsen Peak road, skirts around the flank of the peak from the Youth Conservation Corps camp to the Golden Gate. This old road may be used by hikers, mountain-bikers, and skiers in winter—travel safely and know what to do if you encounter wildlife
The peak is also interesting because it burned in the 1880s and then again in 1988. A series of old photos show the creep of trees up Bunsen following the 1880 fires, and the new patterns of open space created by the fires of 1988.
Mark your Journey to the 45th Parallel
A sign north of where the road crosses the Gardner River marks the 45th parallel of latitude. The 45th parallel is an imaginary line that circles the globe halfway between the equator and the North Pole. This same line passes through Minneapolis-St. Paul, Ottawa, Bordeaux, Venice, Belgrade, and the northern tip of the Japanese islands. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of the Montana/Wyoming state line does not follow the 45th parallel through the park.
Find Perspective in the Shadow of Mt. Everts
Mt. Everts is made up of distinctly layered sandstones and shales—sedimentary rocks deposited when this area was covered by a shallow inland sea, 70 to 140 million years ago. Mt. Everts was named for explorer Truman Everts of the 1870 Washburn Expedition who became separated from his camping buddies, lost his glasses, lost his horse, and spent the next 37 days starving and freezing and hallucinating as he made his way through the untracked and inhospitable wilderness. Upon rescue, he was, according to his rescuers, within but a few hours of death. Everts never made it quite as far as Mt. Everts. He was found near the "Cut" on the Blacktail Plateau Drive and was mistaken for a black bear and nearly shot. His story was later published in Scribner's Monthly Magazine (See "Thirty-Seven Days of Peril"), which remains one of Yellowstone's best known, lost-in-the-wilderness stories. It has also been published in book form, edited by Yellowstone's historian, Lost in the Yellowstone.
Make a Historic Entrance at Roosevelt Arch
The first major entrance for Yellowstone was at the north boundary. Before 1903, trains would bring visitors to Cinnabar, Montana, which was a few miles northwest of Gardiner, Montana, and people would climb onto horse-drawn coaches there to enter the park. In 1903, the railway finally came to Gardiner, and people entered through an enormous stone archway. Robert Reamer, a famous architect in Yellowstone, designed the immense stone arch for coaches to travel through on their way into the park. At the time of the arch's construction, President Theodore Roosevelt was visiting the park. He consequently placed the cornerstone for the arch, which then took his name. The top of the Roosevelt Arch is inscribed with "For the benefit and enjoyment of the people," which also appears in the National Park Service Organic Act of 1916. Watch the Inside Yellowstone episode about Roosevelt Arch (1 min. 36 sec.)
Soak in the Boiling River
Cold water from the Gardner River mixes with the Boiling River hot spring mixes here. Boiling River is one of the few legal thermal soaking areas in Yellowstone. Soaking in hot springs and other thermal features is prohibited and features are very fragile. You may soak in bodies of water fed by runoff from hydrothermal features. The Boiling River is closed in spring, early summer, and other times of hazardous high water. Check locally for permitted hours and conditions. Limited parking is often full and overflowing in the summer, 10 am-6 pm. Walk from the parking lot to the designated area on a trail for .5 miles (.8 km).
Find Evidence of GlaciersThe Mammoth area exhibits much evidence of glacial activity from the Pinedale Glaciation. The summit of Terrace Mountain is covered with glacial till, thereby dating the travertine formation there to earlier than the end of the Pinedale Glaciation. Several thermal kames, including Capitol Hill and Dude Hill, are major features of the developed areas of Mammoth Hot Springs. Ice-marginal stream beds are in evidence in the small, narrow valleys where Floating Island Lake and Phantom Lake are found. In Gardner Canyon, one can see the old, sorted gravel bed of the Gardner River covered by unsorted glacial till.
Prepare for Your Trip