WRAITH FALLS TRAIL

Trailhead: Pullout ¼ mile east of Lava Creek Picnic area, Mammoth-Tower Road
Distance: 1 mile (1 km) round trip
Level of Difficulty: Easy

This short, easy hike takes only minutes.  It travels through open sagebrush and Douglas-fir forest to the foot of Wraith Falls cascade on Lupine Creek.  It is a good option for families with young children who are not yet capable of walking long distances.

OSPREY FALLS TRAIL

Osprey Falls July 2013 by Bruce Gourley (brucegourley.com)
Osprey Falls July 2013 by Bruce Gourley (brucegourley.com)

Trailhead: 5 miles south of Mammoth on the Old Bunsen Peak Road Trail
Distance: 8 miles (12.9 km) roundtrip
Level of Difficulty: Difficult

Whether you start south of Bunsen Peak on the old Bunsen Peak road (the trailhead noted above) or north of Bunsen Peak on the other end of the old Bunsen Peak road, you will be traveling about 2.5 miles along the road (now closed to automobiles) before you actually reach Osprey Falls Trail. From the south, the road starts out on level terrain and skirts Swan Lake Meadows after which point it inclines slightly as it curves behind Bunsen Peak. From the north, the old road travels through a small meadow where birds and waterfowl are often seen before it starts a steady climb up through a forested area on the back side of Bunsen Peak. This route offers good views of Sheepeater Canyon, and moose and deer can often be seen in the area. The actual Osprey Falls Trail starts at the rim of Sheepeater Canyon and drops some 800 vertical feet through a series of switchbacks to the floor of the canyon. From there, the trail follows the Gardiner River up to the base of the 150 foot falls. You can stand at the bottom of the falls and enjoy the spray of the waterfall, but be careful not to lose your balance on the wet, slippery (and sometimes icy) rocks.

 

The entirety of the hike to Osprey Falls via the old Bunsen Peak roadbed and back is about eight miles and is rated “difficult” by some trail guides. For an even more difficult outing begin your hike by ascending Bunsen Peak and descending down the backside of the mountain (the trail on the backside of the mountain is not as well used and you may encounter some deadfall across the trail at times) to the Bunsen Peak roadbed, turn left (northeast) and walk a short distance to the Osprey Falls trailhead. Ascending and descending Bunsen Peak on the way to Osprey Falls and returning to your car via the Bunsen Peak roadbed is about a ten mile outing.

 

BUNSEN PEAK TRAIL

Trailhead: Entrance of Old Bunsen Peak Road, 5 miles south of Mammoth
Distance: 2 miles to the summit (up to 10 miles roundtrip, depending on route)
Level of Difficulty: Moderate

As far as mountain scenery goes, this is one of the best short hikes in Yellowstone. The climb is fairly steep, climbing some 1300 feet in the two mile ascent. The peak itself is an ancient volcano’s core. The two miles of trail winds through both forest and meadow, with a number of scenic points (including some impressive views of Mammoth Village) along the way. Attempting to hike this trail before mid-June will oftentimes involve wading through one-two feet of snow near the top. The view from the top is spectacular, as the peak juts out into the Yellowstone Valley some 3000 feet below and gives the observer an almost 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains and valleys, including the Gallatin, Madison and Absaroka ranges. If you intend on taking pictures, bring along a panoramic camera! The peak is named after Robert Bunsen, who did early research on geysers.

BEAVER PONDS LOOP TRAIL

Trailhead: Clematis Gulch between Liberty Cap and the stone house
Distance: 5 mile (8 km) loop
Level of Difficulty: Moderate

One of Yellowstone’s shorter loop trails, this is a scenic hike with little elevation change and a good chance to see some of the Park’s larger animal inhabitants, including elk, deer, pronghorn, moose and occasional black bear. The trail wanders through both meadows and forest. Elk and antelope frequent the meadows, and smaller animals can be spotted in the forest. The trail passes by several ponds dammed by beavers (surprise), which are sometimes visible. Wildflowers in brilliant colors are plentiful during the early part of the summer, and the trail offers excellent views of the Mammoth area.

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