Great Hike: Mammoth Hot Springs.
I can already tell that I have big problem with my theme: “One Great Hike Each.” Within U.S. National Parks pretty much every hike is great. For instance, in my one day in Yellowstone I went on three serious hikes. Each was remarkable in it’s own way. From past visits to Yellowstone I know this to be true of other hikes as well. Suffice to say I’m sticking with the theme and will simply explain my selection.
Mammoth Hot Springs is my choice because what you see on this 1.7 mile stroll is true to the famous character of Yellowstone. You expect to see mineral springs steaming with boiling water in brightly colored pools. Of course there will be rock mounds from decades of accumulated mineral deposits. It wouldn’t be Yellowstone if the resulting landscape didn’t appear a little surreal. For these reasons I choose this hike over my other two even though it was short and not very challenging.
If “challenging” were my primary criteria them I’d have chosen my first hike of the day, Avalanche Peak. This out-and-back hike was 4.6 miles along which you ascend and descend 2,000 feet. Add to this a field of rough-to-traverse scree (loose rock) along the top quarter mile and you have a challenge. What set this hike apart was the view which, while hidden in shadow, was expansive and impressive.
My third hike was special to me for it’s illusiveness. Twice previously I’ve visited Yellowstone and had this hike in the back of my mind and twice I’ve left feeling unrequited. Even this time I practically gave up before stumbling into a Ranger Station and asking for direction. What was this hike? It’s a trail leading to the only suspension bridge over the Yellowstone River in the entire park. What made it so difficult to find? The bridge doesn’t show up on any of the standard visitor maps, it’s a trail primarily meant for horseback traffic, and it’s called something that give you no clue: Hellroaring Trail. In the end I found the bridge and it was worth all the effort. See below.
Yellowstone was a detour on my trip to the west coast national parks. It took time, it took effort, and in the end I stayed far too little time. Yellowstone should never be a detour. Then again, better a detour than not to visit at all.by