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May 22, 2018 / mws

2018 Yellowstone May


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 Adventures from our May 2018 trip to Yellowstone and surrounding areas

May 13 – May 22

Gallatin Canyon

From West Yellowstone, traveling north on Route 191 past Big Sky to Bozeman, Montana, is an incredibly scenic experience. This drive is considered the Gateway to Yellowstone National Park.  Native American hunters were the first to explore the narrow Gallatin Canyon found along this drive. “The Canyon”, as the locals call it, is well known for it’s spectacular white water rafting adventures among the huge rocks and also known for exceptional fly fishing opportunities. The Gallatin River is also known from the film “A River Runs Through It” with Robert Redford.

The breath-taking scenery is non-stop along the winding road. There are opportunities for wildlife sightings (big horn sheep, elk, bison) and photo ops all along the way. Trail heads are marked and plentiful as well as several places to stop for a picnic including some nice-looking campgrounds.

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Among the dozen times we visited the iconic Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, this year was special due to the lingering snow cover. Though not as large as the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Lower Falls, Upper Falls and hiking trails make the Canyon an impressivde area for visitors to experience.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is carved by the waters of the majestic Yellowstone River. The canyon is approximately 20 miles in length and varies in depth from 800 feet to 1200 feet.  It’s here that visitors can begin to understand the meaning of “Yellow-stone”.

For the 2018 season, there is construction on both the South Rim Drive and the North Rim Drive.  There are still many open view points and ample opportunities for marveling at the awesome Yellowstone Falls.

Although there are large parking areas for the canyon, the area is usually crowded, so you just have to share the view! There are many pull-offs on both the South Rim Drive and the North Rim Drive. Our favorite spots are Artist Point on the South Rim Drive and Lookout Point on the North Rim Drive.

West Thumb Geyser Basin

West Thumb

With many thermal features, this geyser basin is an easy stroll on the boardwalk with picturesque Yellowstone Lake as a backdrop.  Yellowstone Lake is the largest elevated lake in North America. As you walk the boardwalk and take in the geysers, a glance up at the lake reveals the far side of the lake where the Absaroka Mountains rise up to the sky.

There is a 1/4 mile inner loop and a 1/2 outer loop that meader past mudspots, hotsprings, geysers and thermal cones. The West Thumb Geyser Basin is quieter and less crowded than the major basins on the west side of Yellowstone Park.  There is ample parking, and a Yellowstone Association Bookstore.

Cooke City to Tower Falls…the best part of Yellowstone!!

in SIlver Gate, Montana

The authentic village of Cooke City is our home base when we travel to the northern part of Yellowstone.  Early in the season some facilities are still closed, but we love the Elkhorn Lodge, the Bistro and Buns and Beds. Just south of Cooke City is Silver Gate, Montana.  With the rustic Log Cabin Café and the Stop the Car Trading Post, we make frequent stops here for Meatball subs and Huckleberry Ice Cream.

Just before and after the Northeast Gate of Yellowstone Park is a likely place to spot moose.  As you travel south, you encounter the massive Lamar Valley, home of the ubiquitous bison herds.  The scenic mountain views surround the valley and the rivers turn and twist through the valley.

Numerous animal sightings are possible throughout the Lamar Valley.  As you approach the Tower area, the black bear sightings are more likely, especially in the Spring.

Quake Lake/west of Yellowstone

Earthquake Lake

From West Yellowstone, travel west on Rt 287 past Hebgen Lake to the Madison River Canyon Earthquake area. In 1959 a 7.4 magnitude earthquake along the fault line here created a massive landslide along the Madison River damming up the river and flooding the valley in a matter of hours. Many campers were trapped and buried in the devastating landslide.  A realistic example of the power of nature, this earthquake created Quake Lake.

Today, there is a very nice visitors center with informative displays and a film showing what happened.  The lake itself has an eerie quality with the dead trees protruding upward in the middle of the lake.  It is just a short distance from West Yellowstone and a worthwhile experience.

Spring baby animals/Yellowstone

A bear cub sighting is the ultimate Springtime experience in Yellowstone.  In past visits, we have always been lucky enough to have good sightings.  This year was no exception! 🙂

Trout Lake and Buck Lake/Yellowstone

Trout Lake

We have enjoyed hiking to Trout Lake in previous trips. On a clear blue sky day, Trout Lake is hard to beat!  We had waited for a dry morning hike and we finally had our chance!

On this trip we learned about a short extension hike to Buck Lake. The directions were vague, but we were determined!

We took an incorrect trail at first, and came to a high water creek crossing.  So we turned around and started over and this time we found the Buck Lake Trail.  It is not marked and not easy to follow.  You just have to go in the general north direction till you see the lake.  It was so worth the extra effort!

Canyon Visitor Education Center

The Canyon Education Center is located in the Canyon Village just off the Grand Loop Road and the North Rim Road. This is an outstanding facility for educating visitors about the history and geology of the volcanic aspects of Yellowstone Park. Rangers staff this center and provide all the maps and information to aid in planning an active itinerary in Yellowstone. Bear spray is sold or rented here and the rangers provide safety talks and display how to use the bear spray. The rangers also provide evening programs throughout the summer and lead guided walks.  You may be lucky enough to spot an animal like a coyote in the area.

At the Visitor Center there are two different 15 minute films about the geology and different areas of interest around Yellowstone. In informative exhibits, visitors learn that “Yellowstone National Park is one of the world’s largest, most explosive, and most unusual volcanoes”. There is also a large map with indicator lights that show the history of volcanic activity. This two story education center has very clean restrooms, water bottle filling stations, nice animal diaramas and of course, the ever-present gift shop!

Ousel Falls/Big Sky

From Big Sky Town Center we drove out Ousel Falls Road to the Ousel Falls Park on the left (about 2 miles from town).

Ousel Falls, Big Sky, MT

This year-round gravel trail is doable for almost anyone. At 1.6 miles RT, but with uphill sections, hikers need to take water and just enjoy the great scenery. The trail was well maintained and travels through the South Fork Ravine to the gorgeous Ousel Falls. The local folks enjoy taking their dogs on this trail so expect a lot of foot traffic and “paw” traffic as well. It was very uncrowded on a Wednesday morning, so we enjoyed the trail.  The Spring snow melting created a rapid flowing river and a powerful Ousel Falls!!

Pine Creek Falls/Livingston

The area south of Livingston is known as Paradise Valley. The entire scenic valley is shadowed by the Absaroka Mountains that rise dramatically to form the eastern boundary of the valley. Located in the heart of the Paradise Valley, Pine Creek Falls is usually snow-free by the mid-Spring.


The trail meanders through a spruce, fir, aspen, and maple forest to the base of the spectacular falls. The falls are worth it.  Just beyond the Pine Creek Falls is a second scenic waterfall.

To see more photos from our 2018 trip to Yellowstone, click here

“You will remember these fine, wild views, and look back with joy to your wanderings in the blessed old Yellowstone.” – John Muir, “Our National Parks”

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