Yellowstone & Grand Teton 28June-3July 2013

Discussion of hiking in the Western part of the United States

Yellowstone & Grand Teton 28June-3July 2013

New postby SNEAKers » Tue Jul 09, 2013 10:07 pm

During the cross country road trip I took last year, I had passed through Yellowstone and was able to spend a night and a day in the park. It was truly an incredible place and I knew I had to come back. A friend and I decided that we would go during the 4th of July week this year...

We flew into Denver and made the 10 hour drive up to the park… It is a very nice drive through Wyoming, especially the Wind River Canyon. We arrived in the park through the southeast entrance from Cody, WY. We were staying at Canyon Campground and headed directly there, aside from a few quick stops, to setup camp.

First stop was along the Yellowstone river rapids where we spotted this fish in the river. (Bottom right, you can see the big tail)
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We continued north and passed through Hayden Valley. Hayden Valley is quite crowded, but is one of the most ideal places to see wildlife. The buffalo, bears, wolves, coyotes and elk frequent this area regularly. As luck would have it, we were in the park for no more than 2 hours and the huge traffic jam indicated that something very interesting was ahead. We pulled off the road to see that all of the commotion was for a sizable grizzly bear foraging just over the stream about 150 yards away.
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As we watched the grizzly while darkness set in, we could hear the wolves calling to each other from both sides of the road… In amazement, we saw a black wolf running past the grizzly towards the road. It crossed the stream, then the road and the grizzly followed a few minutes later. Needless to say, a very good start to our trip! We continued to the campground and setup camp, grabbed a quick bite to eat and went to sleep.

We woke up early the next morning and set out to the same area… While we didn't see any wildlife beyond the usual buffalo and elk, the fog allowed for some nice pictures of the valley and river.
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We then headed up to Tower Roosevelt to see the waterfall and hike down to the river. Two men were fishing and caught and released a small cutthroat trout.
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Next stop was the Petrified Tree. It is a short walk up a paved road to get to the tree, which had a gate around it to prevent theft of the pieces of the tree. Two additional trees had been there, but they were dismantled by tourists. As we arrived back at the parking area, a park ranger came speeding up to us and advised that there was a bear in the area. It was quickly spotted a short distance away in a field walking away from us. Two bears so far!
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We then headed further north to a suspension bridge that crossed the Yellowstone River. It was approximately 1 mile hike down to the bridge. The views along the switchbacks were fantastic.
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We got down to the suspension bridge, which crosses the deep canyon cut by the river. The bridge was shaky, but I was able to get a few pictures of the canyon and river below. We hiked back to the top and huffed and puffed the whole way! Hiking at 8,000 ft is certainly much more strenuous than 3-4000 ft.
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As we continued around the north loop a much smaller traffic jam, gave away this black bear's position! Three bears!
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Next stop was Mammoth Hot Springs, took a few pictures and had lunch. We headed back through Hayden Valley to look for wildlife, but there was nothing out when we passed by. We got back to camp and went to sleep.

The next day we got up early and checked Hayden again… Too much fog and couldn't see much. We stopped at Mud Volcano and I snapped a few pictures.
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We then went to Artist Point, which looks up the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone at the Lower Falls.
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Then we hiked down the 300+ stairs on Uncle Tom's trail to take a closer look at the Lower Falls.
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The rest of the day was spent looking for Moose and Mountain Goats along Beartooth Pass that goes to Red Lodge, MT which is beyond the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone. We stopped in Cooke City, had lunch and decided to rent ATVs to ride the roads in Gallatin National Forest. The views were incredible and the roads were tight and unmaintained in many places. There was still plenty of snow towards the top.
Beartooth Pass area:
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Pretty sure this is Gardner Lake and can be found on Google Maps:
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We then continued towards Red Lodge, MT looking for Moose and Mountain Goats, but were disappointed to see NOTHING. We made it to Red Lodge and had dinner, some coffee and started to head back. We continued for some time and still did not see anything… And then FINALLY, the animal I most wanted to see and had the least chance of doing so… a whole herd of Mountain Goats!
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The sun was setting and they were downhill from us… The backdrop could not have been better, with the snow, a small lake, mountains and valleys. This was by far the BEST part of the trip!
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The next day we needed to move camp to Grant Village, which had only recently been opened due to bear activity in the area. We setup camp and headed to the thermal pool areas, including old faithful. On my previous trip, I had seen Grand Prismatic Spring along the boardwalk. It's very hard to grasp the size of the pool because the view from the boardwalk is too low.
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I had made a promise to myself to hike up the hill across the spring to get a better view when I came back. We started up the trail, which had a warning sign that although the trail wasn't closed, there was a mother grizzly with cubs in the area. Use extreme caution!
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We then checked out a few more thermal pools including this one that was violently boiling.
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Next up was Old Faithful, which is a Yellowstone classic.
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The next day we took a kayaking trip along the West Thumb geyser basin on Yellowstone Lake. It was very cool to paddle directly about boiling hot springs and underwater thermal features. After returning, we headed back to Hayden Valley to see if the bears or wolves were out. We got the chance to see yet another grizzly, this time it was lighter out than the last time… Dinner and then bed as we were worn out from the trip.

The final day of the trip we headed to Grand Teton National Park to look for moose. We had seen a small (relatively speaking) female along the road on a previous day, but no bulls. We headed into this very beautiful park with the intent to drive Wilson road, which is perfect moose habitat. Unfortunately, even after driving it back and forth twice, we didn't see any. I snapped this picture of the Tetons and we headed back to Denver to fly home.
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It was a fantastic trip and I would highly recommend Yellowstone to anyone who enjoys the outdoors. Make sure to bring a telephoto lens, I only had a 70mm on a full frame camera and it definitely was not enough. If anyone is going to be taking a trip to Yellowstone, don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!
SNEAKers
 
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