YELLOWSTONE RIVER PICNIC AREA TRAIL

Trailhead: 1.25 miles  NE of Tower Junction on the road to the NE Entrance
Distance: 3.7 miles (5.9 km) roundtrip
Level of difficulty: Moderately strenuous
 
A moderate trail which starts at the Yellowstone River Picnic Area and rises up to the eastern lip of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, following the rim of the Canyon until reaching the Specimen Ridge Trail two miles from the picnic area. There are some spectacular views of the Canyon and River from this trail. Watch for ospreys and perhaps the occasional eagle soaring below and for wisps of steam issuing from steam vents near the bottom of the Canyon walls. Note the bright yellow tint of the Canyon walls. And keep a careful lookout for bighorn sheep, which are known to inhabit the area. (Some years ago, I rounded a corner without looking and almost tripped over one which was standing in the trail!)

SPECIMEN RIDGE TRAIL

Trailhead: 2.5 miles east of Tower Junction
Distance: 1 to 11 miles one way
Level of Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
 
This is a moderate trail which takes one to the lip of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone at the one mile point, then turns to the east and gradually climbs through sagebrush and grassy meadows, reaching the top of 9614-feet Amethyst Mountain at just over the eleven mile mark. For those wishing to do an overnight backpacking trip, the trail continues and the 17.5 mile mark brings you to the Lamar trailhead. This area is a popular feeding place for elk, and the occasional coyote can be spotted. Bighorn sheep may also be spotted. Wildflowers are plentiful in early summer. This trail can also be reached by starting out from the Yellowstone Picnic trailhead.  Specimen Ridge is a challenging all day hike.

MOUNT WASHBURN TRAIL

Trailhead #1: Chittenden Road Parking Area, 8.7 miles (13.9 km)
Trailhead #2: Dunraven Pass Parking Area, 13.6 miles south of Tower Junction
Distance: 6 miles (9.6 km) roundtrip
Level of difficulty: Moderately strenuous


One of the most popular hikes in Yellowstone, the Mt. Washburn trail offers expansive views of the eastern side of the park on clear, summer days. Each trail is 3 miles one way, switchbacking to the summit.  An enclosed observation area allows you a respite from the wind and magnificent views for many miles around. Bighorn sheep are frequently seen during the summer on the upper parts of the trails. Alpine vegetation is visible on this hike, thanks to the high altitude.

The northern trail begins at the Chittenden Road parking area. The southern trail begins at Dunraven Pass parking area. Overflow parking is available at the Chittenden Road Trailhead.

LOST LAKE TRAIL

Trailhead: Behind Roosevelt Lodge
Distance: 4 miles (6.4 km) roundtrip
Level of difficulty: Moderately strenuous

This moderately strenuous trail starts behind Roosevelt Lodge (Tower Junction) and goes into the forested hillside and climbs some 300 feet before coming to a fork. Take the west fork, which leads to Lost Lake in about a quarter of a mile. Waterfowl and beaver can be viewed at this scenic Lake.  Wildflowers are abundant in the wet spring months. The trail follows the shore of Lost Lake, heading north around a hill, eventually taking the hiker to the Petrified Tree, which is enclosed behind a fence to keep vandals away. To get back to Roosevelt Lodge, follow the trail at the northeast end of the Petrified Tree parking lot. You will climb a hill and then drop back down to the Tower Junction area. Hawks can frequently be seen atop the hill.