Wyoming 2012: Yellowstone and Grand Teton

Wow. We felt like we needed to spend more time hiking in the U.S. after exploring national parks in several other countries, so we planned a simple little trip out west
to visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. We got a lot more than we bargained for: it was stunningly beautiful, the weather was perfect, wildlife was everywhere,
and there were so few other visitors that it felt like we had the parks all to ourselves.

If there was a down side to the trip it was the profound sense of loss we felt when we realized that most of the land that is now the U.S. used to be
unspoiled habitat like the National Parks. You don't realize how good something is until it's almost gone.

Day 1: Driving to Yellowstone

Our first glimpse of the sights from Blackfoot, Idaho to Mammoth Hot Springs in the NW corner of the park.

Day 2: Sepulcher Mountain

Starting at the Mammoth terraces, this 11.5 mile hike gains 3500 feet in elevation and includes beautiful vistas north into Montana. The day ended with us taking a soak in the Boiling River where a hot spring heats up the frigid Gardiner River into the perfect temperature. If only all days could end this way!

Day 3: Bunsen Peak and Osprey Falls

This 10-mile hike involved about 2000 feet in elevation gain and ended with a spectacular waterfall!

Day 4: Lamar Valley, Fossil Forest, and Beaver Ponds Loop

We packed a lot into this day. A drive through Lamar Valley to see bison up close and wolves far away, a short but steep hike to find fossils but no forest, pronghorns and a parking-citation-wielding-ranger captured from Specimen Ridge, and a leisurely hike along the Beaver Ponds loop. All in all, we hiked about 9 miles with 1800 feet elevation gain.

Day 5: Yellowstone Lake and Avalanche Peak

We headed to Lake Village for a couple days of hiking on the east side of the park. Avalanche Peak stands at 10,566' near the Sylvan Pass, and involved another short (4 miles) but steep (2100 feet elevation gain) hike through gorgeous whitebark pine stands. We were kind of hoping to see a bear along the trail, and were kind of relieved when we did not.

Day 6: Mount Washburn, Wolf at Dunraven Pass, and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

This was the day that almost killed us. We started the day hiking up to the Mount Washburn fire tower - one of three active watchtowers in the park. Mt Washburn stands at 10,243' and involved a 6-mile hike with 1400 feet elevation gain. We then found a cool roadside attraction near Dunraven Pass, before jaunting down the North Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone to see the Upper and Lower Falls. This afternoon hike may have been a mile or two too long. We hiked down to Inspiration Point and back adding another 8 miles and 1200 feet elevation gain to the day. We made it back to the car just in time to drive over to the South Rim's Artist Point to watch the sun set.

Day 7: Off to Geyser Country to see Old Faithful and Lone Star

We left early for the 38-mile drive to Old Faithful where we got a chance to stay in the Old House section of the Inn. After waiting for Old Faithful to erupt, viewing a second eruption from Observation Point, and exploring the surrounding geysers, we hiked out to see the predictable Lone Star geyser erupt.

Day 8: Grand Prismatic Spring, Fairy Falls, and Imperial Geyser

A great day of hiking with very scenic thermal features!

Day 9: Grand Tetons

We drove south to the Grand Tetons, and arrived at Teton Village just in time to catch the aerial tram on its last day of operations before closing for the summer season. We hiked about five miles around the top of Rendezvous Mountain along the Rock Springs, Top of the World, and Corbet's Loops.

Day 10: Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes to the Teton Glacier Overlook

This hike gained 3000 feet over 10 miles ascending to 9698' at Amphitheater Lake.

Day 11: Cascade Canyon

This 9.1 mile hike was relatively flat (1100 feet elevation gain) but stunningly beautiful.

Day 12: Leigh, Bearpaw, and Trapper Lakes

A beautiful 8.4 mile hike that skirted around Leigh Lake and let us explore around the smaller Bearpaw and Trapper lakes

Day 13: Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, Phelps Lake, and Death Canyon

An 11 mile hike through the newest portion of Grand Teton National Park

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