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A few Yellowstone trail, wildlife & accommodation questions

Epsom, United...
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A few Yellowstone trail, wildlife & accommodation questions

Hi everyone. I'm planning a 17-day trip to Yellowstone (and Grand Teton) for September 2014, basically starting right after Labour Day. For me, it's lot of fun to plan such a trip in advance so I've been doing that for a few weeks. I thought this was just idle fun but then I think I saw somewhere that you can book in-park Yellowstone accommodation for 2014 by phone from 1 May 2013. Is that right? Or is it just the standard one year in advance that applies to online bookings? (Is it the same for in-park Grand Teton accommodation?)

I'm looking for cheaper in-park accommodation like the cabins at Lake Lodge, Canyon and Old Faithful and maybe a room at Mammoth (and Colter Bay cabins for GT). Do I need to be so worried about getting on the phone so early for those kinds of accommodation?

Anyway, on to the wildlife questions ... I love seeing wildlife but, mostly, I'll take it as it comes and prefer not to go too far out of my way to see it or wait around too long for it to turn up. I'd make an exception for otters and beavers though. I understand that Trout Lake is good for otters, and Beaver Ponds and the Madison are good for beavers. Anywhere else I should consider (where along the Madison?!)

Lastly, the trail questions. I'm mostly going for the hiking and the sights I can see on the way. I'm pretty fit, used to walking 10-15 miles day after day up the sorts of climbs in Yellowstone (though not at Yellowstone's altitude so I need to be careful about that). I'm a very good navigator on or off trail. I won't be overnighting on trails and I don't like going out the same way I come back (for more than, say, 3 miles). I do, however, have the advantage of a driver (as I like to think of my partner :-) so I can do point-to-point. Normally, I hike for aerial views and waterfalls but in Yellowstone I'm also really looking forward to the thermal features (and beavers & otters!) My detailed plans include the following trails (I'll be doing all the usual short thermal area trails but I've left them out of this list for brevity):

Yellowstone Lake Overview

Storm Point

Elephant Back Mountain

Crater Hills (off-trail)

Pebble Creek

Trout Lake

Yellowstone River Picnic Area

Lost Lake

Bunsen Peak & Osprey Falls

Hoodoos, Narrow Gauge and Sepulcher Mountain (the latter might be too much for me)

Beaver Ponds

Mt. Washburn & Seven Mile Hole (again, the latter might be too much)

North & South Canyon rim trails

Gibbon River behind (west and maybe north of) Norris Geyser Basin (off-trail)

Monument Geyser Basin

Purple Mountain

Harlequin Lake

Fairy Falls & Sentinel Meadows (combined)

Mystic Falls

Morning Mist Springs & Quagmire (off-trail mostly)

Rabbit Creek (off trail)

I dare say I won't make quite all of these but it's a good list for 12-13 days day-hiking in Yellowstone, I reckon. I considered a few extra and found reasons to whittle them out ...

Solfatara Creek Trail. I dropped this one because the main attraction for me was the Amphitheater and Whiterock Springs areas. I've read these are attractive but online photos don't look that spectacular. Should I include it?

Cascade - Ice Lakes. I dropped this when I realised I couldn't fit in Observation Peak as well (too far). I reckon it's then just a notch below the standards of the long hikes I have included above. Is that right?

Mallard Lake & Creek Trails. I was planning to do these in a loop with a bit of Powerline trail and Upper Geyser Basin. But, again, I think Mallard Lake & Creek Trails are just a notch below what I have included (and, besides, I can spend a great day just on UGB and Mystic Falls).

Pelican Valley and Turbid Pool. Pelican Valley sounded good for wildlife. And Turbid Pool sounded spookily interesting. There's an obvious loop from the Pelican Valley trailhead but I understand the direct route from Turbid Pool to that trailhead is closed (bears). And doing it as a point-to-point to the Lake Butte Overlook road is apparently quite hard because of all the wood fall blocking the path from Turbid Pool. Lastly, it is a more dangerous bear area I believe and I'll probably be solo on this one. So I dropped it. Was that the right decision?

Any other trails I should be considering (or any I should throw out)?

Many thanks for any answers or opinions you can give me.

Simon

Atlanta, Georgia
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1. Re: A few Yellowstone trail, wildlife & accommodation questions

Don't think you need to worry about calling Xanterra the first day but I wouldn't wait too long because you are looking for specific cabin style lodging. It will likely book up quicker for the summer months.

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2. Re: A few Yellowstone trail, wildlife & accommodation questions

You should book your cabin as soon as they open reservations for 2014 if you know your exact dates.

With some minimal hiking experience, I can't advise on your hikes except to say, carry bear spray, know how to use it and know how to react if you come upon a bear. And by all means you shouldn't hike alone. The last year I was in Yellowstone, 2 trails were closed from deaths from grizzly attacks.

You are definitely in a good position with your planning so far ahead. Enjoy the research.:) and your trip.:)

N. Idaho
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3. Re: A few Yellowstone trail, wildlife & accommodation questions

I've seen otters a couple of times from Fishing Bridge. Plan to park and walk across. I've also seen muskrat ~under~ the bridge.

I would put Monument GB down on the list. It's OK, and with the number of days you have you can probably work it in. If you are interested in geyser basins, I found the Lone Star Geyser Basin much more interesting than Monument. The Lone Star hike is very easy, on an old road bed, so that might not appeal, but the sights are better.

"Gibbon River behind (west and maybe north of) Norris Geyser Basin (off-trail)" I am not sure about this at all, but perhaps Bill074 or someone else might have a handle on that. Some areas are closed except to researchers and you need to be extremely careful and knowledgeable in thermal areas. Did you see this listed somewhere as a good place to hike?

Pam

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4. Re: A few Yellowstone trail, wildlife & accommodation questions

A few thoughts ...

I hope that in addition to a "driver" you have one or more hiking partners. Hiking alone in the backcountry isn't the best idea. When you enter the park you will be given a copy of the park newspaper with important bear safety info. Read it. Also to second what atinor mentioned above, carry bear spray and know how to use it.

Consider a couple of nights at Roosevelt for access to the hikes you might want in the northern range, for example, Pebble Creek and Trout Lake. I would add to your hiking list Specimen Ridge, out and back from the signed trailhead a little east of Yellowstone River picnic area. Also take a look at the possibility of spotting a car at Pebble Creek trailhead then driving up almost to the northeast entrance to start hiking from the area identified as Warm Spring Trailhead on the north side of the road (just west of the picnic area). That's a good way to access Pebble Creek. Be aware of the fords on Pebble Creek -- check with the rangers but they should be doable in September.

Another hike you may be interested in would be from the end of Fountain Flat Drive to Fairy Falls, up around on the Fairy Creek Trail to Mystic Falls and down to the geyser basin. This would also require spotting a car since you don't end up at your starting point. Also, check with the rangers on the condition of Fairy Creek trail -- that area was heavily burned in 1988 and I haven't been back up there since 1990. A trail on a map isn't always still a trail on the ground. In 1990 we had some route-finding challenges as parts of that trail were still obliterated by the fires.

Another one you might like, this one an out-and-back, would be going down DeLacey Creek to Shoshone Lake, hike a bit along the lake shore either direction as time allows, and return to your car. Beautiful meadows and good possibility to see waterfowl if any are still in the park in September.

Be sure to plan your lodging and your hike start times so that you AND YOUR HIKING COMPANION(S) will be back to your lodging by dark. Driving after dark is too dangerous for both motorists and animals.

ENJOY!

Yellowstone Nat...
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5. Re: A few Yellowstone trail, wildlife & accommodation questions

Oh, one more thing I should have mentioned. YNP is not a place where you can hike just anywhere you please. ALWAYS check with the rangers about any hiking you plan to do to be sure it is even an open area. For example, your description of the area described by Pam above sounds to me like a closed area. (Thanks, Pam). Actually I'll go one step further and say that I don't advise any off trail hiking unless and until all the trail hiking available to one is exhausted, or you are with someone experienced in Yellowstone and you have a reason to be off trail with them.

ENJOY!

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6. Re: A few Yellowstone trail, wildlife & accommodation questions

I commend you Simon for doing your homework on trails!

I've been into Pelican valley a few times( yes & saw bears), but only after the allotted hour in the morning & waiting at the trailhead to join a group of 3 or more (both these are posted at the trailhead). It's a magnificent valley.

Although I mainly camp, I loved my 2 days with a friend at Roosevelt cabins, & only $69. Perfect location for Lamar valley. I highly recommend those roughrider cabins. Great food there too.

I second the recommendation of Specimen ridge- great hike- stop at the ranger station at Roosevelt & they can give you a map to locate the petrified stumps. Watch for wolves.

If you are into geysers, It's worth hiking past Fairy falls to see 2 geysers rarely visited-

americansouthwest.net/wyoming/yellowstone/fa…

You might want to research Big Horn pass trail one of my favorites out of Indian Ck.

Also, I found hiking just part way back on Sepulcher past Gibbon meadow was fabulous.

I prefer to climb up for views, so Sofatara & Cascade were not tops & it was a marsh so I couldn't hike up to the observation pt above Cascade.

I've hiked many of the trails on your list, but would be concerned hiking off-trail alone, easier for ranger to locate a person if on a established trail.

I often tag along with other hiking groups at trailheads... meeting hikers from all over the world.

Have fun planning & be safe!

Edited: 19 April 2013, 01:12
st louis
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7. Re: A few Yellowstone trail, wildlife & accommodation questions

I think the Roosevelt cabins close on labor day weekend.

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8. Re: A few Yellowstone trail, wildlife & accommodation questions

funmom, that's correct! Thanks for noting that!

Epsom, United...
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9. Re: A few Yellowstone trail, wildlife & accommodation questions

Thank you everyone for your replies. Very helpful.

Thanks for the tip, PeachBelle8288, though I'm still not sure whether I can book my accommodation for September 2014 on 1 May this year but I'll give it a try and see what happens.

Atinor and Bill074, I understand the need for bear spray. But what does "know how to use it" mean? Does that just mean read and memorize the instructions and do a few dummy runs? Or, for example, will rangers demonstrate if you ask them?

D0bby, thanks for the Fishing Bridge otters tip. With my current planned itinerary, I'll be near or crossing the bridge a few times so I'll have a few opportunities to see if I get lucky. I'm interested that you mention the Lone Star Geyser trail. It seems to get good reviews generally but I can't work out why from looking at the map and pictures online. I don't mind that it's "easy" (easy's good!) but I'm not so keen on the longish "there and back" nature of the route. It parallels a river but then so does the MGB trail for a while. And I'm guessing the MGB trail must have better views. Is there more to see at the end of the LSG trail?

D0bby and Bill074, thank you for the warning about the off-trail behind Norris Geyser Basin thing. It was my idea and it sounds like a bad one so I'll drop it from the list. Also, based on your advice, I'm going to make sure I speak to a ranger every morning (and later if possible) before doing hikes.

Bill074, what counts as "backcountry" (and therefore unsafe for a solo hiker, presumably because of grizzlies primarily)? Is it any uncrowded hike, even just a mile from the road?

I originally discounted Specimen Ridge because I've seen lots of petrified wood. But I did some more research and saw some of the fabulous views. And found out that I can tag it onto a Yellowstone River Picnic Area hike. So thanks for that suggestion, Bill074, it's on the list (and thanks, denalicat, for the wood map tip). And your Pebble Creek suggestion is just what I planned to do but I'm concerned that it counts as "backcountry", might not be a particularly popular hike and that I might not be able to link up with anyone at the trailhead. Thanks also for the Fairy Creek suggestion but my partner and I plan to hike from the northern end of Fountain Flats Drive to behind Grand Prismatic (to nip up the hill to get an aerial view) and then via Fairy Falls, Imperial & Spray Geysers (thanks again, denalicat) and then Sentinel Meadows back to FFD. And I thought my partner and I could spend a day in Upper Geyser Basin from Old Faithful to Biscuit Basin and tag a Mystic Falls loop on to that. Thanks also for the tip about not driving in the dark. I normally like to spend as many light hours as possible out and about so I'll have to moderate that to ensure I'm not driving in the dark.

Bill074 and denalicat, thanks for your recommendations concerning De Lacy Creek and Big Horn Pass but for a first trip, with my "out and back" predjudice, I think I'll leave them for now.

denalicat, thanks for your advice. You mentioned specifically waiting for others to hike with for Pelican Valley and I gather that is specifically recommended for that hike. Do you hike solo elsewhere? If you try to link up with others, do you ever have problems because no one else turns up to the trailhead? Whenever I hike solo in remote or difficult terrain, I always leave a fixed, detailed route with someone (and follow it) and tell them when they should expect to hear from me saying I'm back safely. I'm not worried about getting lost and I understand the dangers of thermal areas - I am worried about bumping into a grizzly!

Oh, and you confused me with " I found hiking just part way back on Sepulcher past Gibbon meadow was fabulous". To me, Sepulcher is north of Mammoth while Gibbon Meadows is south of Norris.

Thank you also for your comments about Solfatara and Cascade Lake

I was trying to remember why I had discounted the Roosevelt cabins and then funmomStLouis reminded me! Thank you.

Hmm, so many new questions. Hope I'm not pushing my luck!

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10. Re: A few Yellowstone trail, wildlife & accommodation questions

Oops, meant Swan Lk flats, not Gibbon meadow adjacent to Sepulcher! It's right across from Bunsen Pk parking lot. And yes, I hiked a lot alone in the park, singing as I go to alert bears.