Unique Places in Yellowstone National Park

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Most Viewed Off The Beaten Path in Yellowstone National Park

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    Beartooth Scenic Highway (NE Entrance)

    by Toughluck Updated Jan 7, 2012

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    For a unique experience, us the Northeast Entrance from Red Lodge, Wyoming as your entry to Yellowstone. The Beartooth Highway is once in a lifetime journey above the tree line and through the thin mountain air. You'll find bare slopes, giving way to deep canyons. Mountain top lakes, give way to thick pine forest as you approach Yellowstone. The journey will feel like a lifetime and you'll wonder how such empty space can exist in this crowded continent.

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    Natural Bridge

    by GuthrieColin Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Natural Bridge is approximately a 1.5 mile hike from the parking lot. The turnout is well marked and the trail is fairly well groomed. By comparison with Utah's Arches this natural bridge is fairly small. At only a 29 foot (8 meters) span and having an opening of 51 feet (15 meter) from top to bottom it is still worth a look. It was discovered in 1871 and was made available to the public in 1881.
    At one time their was a plan made by P.W. Norris to make the landmark into a road. Fortunately that was never more than an idea. Be careful on this trail though. On my trip I ran across a bison just before reaching the arch. It was not a problem, but being 1.5 miles from anything else made it a little uncomfortable.

    Directions: This location can be reached by hiking from the parking lot of the marina near Bridge Bay in the Yellowstone Lake area.

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    Pelican Creek Trail

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    If you would like to take a really short hike off the beaten path in the park, consider the Pelican Creek Trail. This is a very easy 1.3 mile hike. Pelican Creek is a very pretty hike that travels through the pine forest to the lakeshore, then loops back across a marsh along Pelican Creek to the trailhead. You will get a beautiful view of Yellowstone Lake and the distant mountains that edge the east side of the lake. When you reach the lakeshore you can extend your walk by walking out on the sand beach. You may see squirrels in the woods, and geese or other waterfowl on the beach or in the lake. Be aware, however, that this is prime bear country, and at times, especially in the spring and early summer, this trail may be closed when bear activity is on the increase in the area. Always wear bear bells, or talk as you follow this trail. Bear spray is recommended. The trail head is 1 mile east of the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center. For information on some of the available day hikes in the area, visit the web page below.

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    Storm Point Hike

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    I love, love, love this hike! The Storm Point Hike may be my favorite short hike in the park. This is a wonderful 2.3-mile hiking trail. The trailhead begins at the Indian Pond pullout, 3 miles east of the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center. As you begin this hike you will walk along the Indian Pond, passing through open meadow. The trail then turns into the forest, and from there out to the stunningly beautiful, wind-swept Storm Point. Here you can look across the Yellowstone Lake to its beautiful mountain skyline. The trail then leads you along a high, barren shoreline where you will look down onto the waves, lapping or pounding against the shore, depending on the lake’s mood. Eventually the trail loops back through the lodge pole pine forest on its way back to Indian Pond. I consider this a five star hike. It is an easy trail with only a few small hills, and the beauty of the views is some of the best in the country. The lodge pole forest you will travel through on the return leg has old, tall trees that may sway back and fourth in the wind, creaking and emitting high pitched squeaking noises as they rub against each other. Many have fallen to the floor, emitting ribbons of light that encourages the new growth of young lodge poles, now growing below their ancestors. Be aware, however, that this trail is in prime bear country. For this reason this trail is often closed in late spring and early summer due to bear activity. It should be posted if there is a closure, but to be sure you should ask at the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center before hiking. Wear your bear bells if you have them, or talk as you walk along, and if you have Bear Spray, don’t forget to take it. The last time we walked this trail was in early September, and even then we spotted some fairly fresh bear scat on the trail. After checking with a scat book at a visitor center, I believe it was grizzly scat. So don’t let the time of the year put you at rest, and always hike with the possibility of meeting up with a bear.

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    The Norris Basin

    by BLewJay Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest, oldest, and most dynamic of Yellowstone's thermal areas (there are very few thermal features at Norris under the boiling point...199°F at this elevation). Some of the major attractions in this area include Steamboat Geyser (the tallest geyser in the world), Porcelain Basin, Back Basin and One Hundred Springs Plain.

    Located just north of Norris is Roaring Mountain (a large, acidic thermal area that contains many steam vents (fumaroles). The Gibbon River flows through the area and meets the Firehole River at Madison Junction to form the Madison River. A three-mile section of the old road takes visitors past 60-foot high Virginia Cascades.

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    Two Spectacular Drives From the NE

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Dec 30, 2010

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    This is a beautiful drive, and another way to reach Cody. This route will take you through Sunlight Basin along the Chief Joseph Highway. It is a longer route to Cody, but contains outstanding mountain valley scenery. Be prepared to drive winding mountain roads. You will leave the park through the Northeast Entrance, taking hwy 212 through Cook City. When you arrive at the junction of 212 and highway 296, you will take 296 to drive over Dead Indian Pass, which features one of the most outstanding vistas in the state. The spectacular bridge turnout will allow you to park and walk out to look down into the canyon. This is the highest bridge in the state, and the view is worth the effort. As you gaze at the river far below, think of this funny fact. Before the bridge was rebuilt there use to be a sign up here that stated No Fishing From Bridge. We use to get such a laugh out of it. You will find another turnout at the top of the pass. Be sure to stop, read the historical signs, and enjoy the expansive view. When you drive out of the valley and reach highway 120, turn right and head south another 20 miles to Cody. This route would not be a longer route to Cody if you were already in the Yellowstone Lamar Basin area, as to get to “our” East Entrance, you would have to drive the slow drive through the park to the gate. If, however, you are nervous about mountain driving, you may want to skip this suggestion.

    Another route is instead of taking the Chief Joseph Highway (296) you can continue on 212. This route will take you to Red Lodge Montana. With this route you will travel up and over what is called the Beartooth highway, and past a number of small lakes. My last photo was taken of some of the small lakes along the Beartooth highway in August.

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    West Yellowstone, A Place to Stay and Play

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Nov 13, 2010

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    Although not as convenient as staying inside the park, if you are unable to stay within Yellowstone, the small community of West Yellowstone, Montana has a number of lodging and campground options, as well as restaurants, shops, and fun activities. In West Yellowstone you will find an IMAX Theater, a small museum, and the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, where you have the opportunity to learn about and observe both bears and wolves. Both summer and winter tours into Yellowstone National Park are available out of this small community. West Yellowstone is located 14 miles from Madison Junction, which is located on the west side of the park’s main road, making it the most convenient community outside of the park boundaries to stay in, unless you are planning to spend most, or all of your time in the Lamar Valley area of Yellowstone.

    My third and fourth photos are of wolves and a grizzly bear in at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone.

    For more information, visit my West Yellowstone VT pages.

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    Calcite Springs Overlook Trail

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Nov 9, 2010

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    Calcite Springs Overlook Trail is a short, but interesting activity if you are in the Tower Falls and Petrified Tree Area. The trail is located a short distance northwest of Tower Falls. This is an easy, loop walk that leads you to a platform overlooking the Yellowstone River and its canyon. From the trail you will have some wonderful views of the basalt columns across the canyon. These orderly columns were made by volcanic activity in the park about 1.3 million years ago. At that time lava welled up creating a flood of hot lava and fire 25 feet deep. As this lava cooled and contracted, it formed contraction cracks, producing the columns of basalt you see in photos 1 and 2.

    Look down into the canyon. (photo 3) If it is a cool day, you will see wisps of steam rising from Calcite Springs, located on a pale colored slope near the Yellowstone river. In this area the river flows above a volcanic fracture zone, where hot water vents allow geothermal discharges to reach the surface. These vents are slowing causing the cliff around them to turn into a whitish, yellowish pulp.

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    Petrified Tree

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Nov 9, 2010

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    The Petrified Tree consists on one, partial trunk of a petrified redwood tree. Located along the northern most road in the park, unless you are visiting Lamar Valley, or Tower Falls, this is too far out of the way to be worth the drive. Located a short distance northwest of the Tower Falls area, you will see a sign directing you to take a short spur road to the parking area. From there it is a short walk to the tree itself. At one time the Yellowstone area had a warmer, damper climate. The petrified trunk that you will view is of a tree that was exactly like the present-day redwoods in California. Today there are no redwoods at all in the park. Almost 50 million years ago, there was a chain of volcanoes in this area, which caused massive landslides, burying entire forests. Before the trees could rot, silica in the volcanic flow plugged the living cells, creating trees of stone. There use to be two other petrified trees here, but because of vandalism, only one remains.

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    Firehole Canyon Drive

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Nov 9, 2010

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    Firehole Canyon Drive is a beautiful, short drive that comes off the main park road on the west side of the park, just south of the Madison area. High walls rise on either side of the river that runs through this canyon. Make a stop to enjoy the Firehole Cascades falls. There is also a swimming area along this river. Swimming is illegal in most of the park, so I was surprised when we saw this area posted for swimming. The sign gives no information about the temperature or depth of the water. There was a man swimming in the area when we stopped by in 2004. He was snorkeling and did have a wet suit on. If you are interested in this swimming area, I would suggest that you ask at one of the visitor centers for information.

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    Uncle Toms Trail

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Nov 9, 2010

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    In 1898 a simple trail was built by Tom Richardson to lead visitors to the base of the Lower Falls, where he would serve his tour group a picnic before the return trip. Today Uncle Tom's Trail is a well developed route. It is still, however, a very strenuous walk into the canyon for a view of the base of the Lower Falls. The trail drops 500 feet (150 m) along a paved trail and in a series of more than 300 stairs. We walked this route when our son was quite young. In the photo you can see Scott, who was more tired than we were trying to get a rest, and this was on the way down!. Don’t walk this unless you and your family are in good health. Don’t forget that you have to re-climb those stairs and the trail on the way back. We thought the trip was worth it, however, as you get a completely different perspective of the falls from this lower level. Uncle Tom’s Trail is located in the Canyon of the Yellowstone area, and comes off of the spur road that leads to Artist Point.

    For a view of part of the Uncle Tom's stairway from across the canyon see photo 2.

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    hike to the top of Avalanche Peak

    by richiecdisc Updated Dec 12, 2009

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    In 1994, I visited Yellowstone National Park as part of an extended trip much like I did in 2008. The big difference was it was in the beginning of the trip rather than the end and that really makes a difference. When I arrived on the first trip, not only was I younger but I was new to hiking and wanted to do every hike I read about. Avalanche Peak was one of those hikes.

    This 4 mile trail climbs nearly 2200 feet rather steeply to the top of Avalanche Peak. It was a grueling hike from what I remember, more for my partner at the time than me but neither of us was super impressed with the views. To be fair, we had just come the Grand Tetons and the scenery there is just a bit more stunning. Avalanche Peak does provide sweeping views of Yellowstone Lake and is certainly a good workout if you are looking for one. Please allow about 4 hours for the round trip hike.

    The trail head is on the far eastern side of the park, near the East Entrance Station.

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    Natural bridge.

    by pfsmalo Written Nov 23, 2009

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    Just 3 kms south of Lake Junction is a well sign-posted trail up to a natural bridge. There are 2 approaches to the bridge, 1 south and 1 north of the creek that enters Bridge Bay. The one south is tarmac practically all the way, but we opted for the northern trail that follows through the forest before re-joining with the tarmac pretty close to the bridge. A lovely walk. On this trail it's about 2 kms and takes around 30/40 mins one way depending on your photo-stops and your legs. There is an interesting interpretive board at the end of the trail.
    Approaching the bridge in Spring may be wet underfoot as there is supposed to be a creek running through here, but end of September there was no water.

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    Grand Prismatic Spring.

    by pfsmalo Written Nov 20, 2009

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    There is quite an easy way (although it's hard work) to get an almost helicopter view of Grand Prismatic Spring.
    Take your car another km south towards Old Faithful and you'll see a turnoff on your right for the Fairy Falls parking lot. Taks this and park up. Cross the river on the bridge and follow the trail dead in front of you. The trail takes you along round the back of the Prismatic Spring after 15/20 mins walk. When you get to the back of the Spring, look to your left and there should be a cairn there to mark the climb (this is the hard part) up to the top of the hill. It is not worth taking the highest hill as the view is no better and slightly obscured by trees, go up the second lower hill. Take your time going up as it can be slippery with dust and there are broken trees and boulders on the way. But the vista from the top.....aaaaahhh. Not quite as nice as view with the helicopter, but this one doesn't cost you an arm and a leg, and you also get Excelsior Spring in the background.
    Do this and then tell me the climb wasn't worth it.!!!

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    Cleft Cascade

    by GuthrieColin Updated Nov 3, 2009

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    The fourth and fifth falls along the Cascade Creek system come in rapid succession and have been given the joint name of Cleft Cascades. They are located just a short distance from the streams mouth at the Falls River. The upper portion of the falls is said to be about 20 feet (6 meters) that is followed by a slightly shorter second tier.
    I have my suspicions that the lower of these two falls may have a pool beneath that is suitable for swimming in the summer months. That is yet to be known, but what is known is that this is the final falls on a creek that is famously known for them.
    For more information about this and other Yellowstone waterfalls check out Paul Rubenstein's book Yellowstone Waterfalls and their Discovery page 84.
    Directions:
    From the Ashton-Flagg Road west of the Grassy Lake Reservoir there is a signed turnout for the Cascade Creek trailhead. From there either drive or walk to the trailhead down a very rough road and hike a short distance past Humpback Cascades to the falls.

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