Creek - Lava Butte Trail
Length: 7.5 miles, loop.
Elevation change: Trailhead at 7,600 feet (1,000-foot gain).
Trailhead: The trailhead is located about 0.8 miles south of the Gallatin
boundary on U.S. Highway 191. A small, exposed parking area marks the
Daly and Black Butte creeks are located in an isolated region in the extreme
northwest comer of Yellowstone. This area is a popular hiking destination
for residents of Big Sky and Bozeman, Montana, as well as a starting
location for horsepackers heading into the more remote regions of the
Daly Creek is a smaller version of the
large, open sweeping landscapes of Yellowstones interior valleys. Open,
grassy slopes with rock escarpments, fringed with Douglas firs and aspen
dominate most of the hillsides up this valley. After about a mile, the
trail junctions to the east and the trail proceeds up-slope to cross
through a pass before descending into Black Butte Creek. Near
the pass, on an alternate side trail, is the Daly Creek patrol cabin,
used by Park Service personnel for private parties.
Black Butte Creek is a narrow valley,
heavily treed with aspen, Douglas fir and lodgepole pine. The trail
follows the creek along the southeast
base of Lava Butte and emerges onto the highway about 1.3 miles from
Bunsen Peak Trail
Length: 2 miles, one way.
Elevation change: Trailhead at 7,250 feet (1,310-foot gain).
Trailhead: Located at the turnout of Bunsen Peak Loop Road, about 4.5
miles south of Mammoth Hotel on the Mammoth-Norris Road.
The trailhead is about five miles south
of Mammoth at the summit of Golden Gate-just where the road levels out
on Gardners Hole-and above Rustic
Falls. The Bunsen Peak Loop Road starts on the south side but the dirt
road often is barricaded. Parking is available at the turnout, and the
trail starts just past the barricade.
The ascent of Bunsen Peak is a relatively
modest climb. It begins among singed sagebrush and enters charred skeletal
remains of Douglas fir and lodgepole pines that were burned during the
1988 fires. As the trail becomes steeper, it begins a series of switchbacks
and offers excellent views of Mammoth Terraces to the north and Mount
Everts to the east of Mammoth. Members of the Hayden Survey named the
dome-shaped Bunsen Peak in 1872, in honor of Robert Wilhelm Eberhard
von Bunsen (1811-1899), eminent German physicist, inventor and chemist.
His name is attached to the Bunsen Burner, even though he did not invent
it. He conducted extensive studies of Iceland's geysers and developed
an original theory regarding their function, and he is honored here
for this hydrothermal work.
From the summit of Bunsen, you can view
the Mammoth area and the Absaroka Range to the north. Electric Peak
to the northwest, Gardner's Hole-including Swan Lake Flat-to the southwest,
and Arrow Canyon and the Washburn Range to the southeast. At the summit
are a number of electronic towers, repeating stations, TV towers, an
electronic shed and antennas, along with discarded cables and other
rubbish. This equipment is for Park Service employees and provides FM
radio, a government radio repeater station and television for Mammoth
residents. From the summit, the trail continues on and down the east
slope of Bunsen Peak. It emerges near the Osprey Trailhead. But because
of the one-way road, it is a difficult a dusty route to return to the
point of origin.
Snow Pass Trail
Length from Glen Creek Trailhead
to: Snow Pass (4-way) junction 2.0 miles, one way. Mammoth 4.2 miles,
Elevation change: Trailhead at 7,250 feet. (1,011-foot drop to Mammoth).
Trailhead: Located at the turnout of Bunsen Peak Road, about 4.5 miles
south of the Mammoth Hotel on the Mammoth-Norris Road.
The trailhead and parking area for Snow
Pass begins at the same location as the Bunsen Peak Trailhead. For Snow
Pass, however, cross the highway and follow what appears to be a dirt
road heading north and following Glen Creek upstream.
It is recommended that you start here
because it is downhill to Mammoth. But for cross-country skiing, you
can approach it from either direction.
From the trailhead, the trail follows
the northern edge of Gardners Hole at the base of Terrace Mountain (8,011
feet). After about two miles is a four-way junction in the open meadow.
The trail to the west is the Fawn Creek Trail (see Fawn Pass Trail for
description). Straight north are the Sepulcher and Electric peak trails.
The trail to the east leads to Snow Pass and, ultimately, to Mammoth. After crossing Snow Pass (7,450 feet),
the trail descends steeply nearly 1,200 feet to Mammoth (6,239 feet).
About a third of a mile past the pass is another junction. The trail
to the north, or left, leads to Mammoth and junctions with the Sepulcher
Mountain Loop Trail after a mile. From there, it follows Clematis Creek
east and emerges between Liberty Cap and the stone house in Mammoth.
The other trail at the junction just
off the pass leads due east and emerges onto the highway, just above
the Upper Terraces. This is the preferred trail for cross-country skiers
because Mammoth generally is snow-bare most of the winter. But heavy
snow accumulation usually starts at this elevation. During winter, the
road is barricaded above the Upper Terraces and only snowcoach and snowmobile
travel are allowed beyond the parking area into the park.
Wraith Falls Trail
Length: 0.3 miles, one way.
Elevation change: Trailhead at 6,620 feet. (80-foot gain).
Trailhead: The trailhead begins at the pulloff, about 4.75 miles east
of Mammoth on the Mammoth-Tower Road, or just 0.4 miles east of Lava
Creek picnic area.
This is a short, easy hike to an 80-
to 100-foot cascade on Lupine Creek. The creek slides down a large rock
sheet in a setting of large lodgepole pines, Engelmann spruce and Douglas
firs. But the area immediately surrounding the falls burned during the
1988 fires; charred timber is all that remains of a once lush, old-growth
The trail begins in an open, exposed
sagebrush-sedge meadow and meanders into the woods. The rushing water
of the cascade often is audible before it is actually seen from a hillside
lockout point downstream.
Geologic members of the Hague party named
the falls in 1885. Wraith means ghost, or the apparition of a living
person, but it is unknown whether that meaning was applied in its naming. In the nearby woods are Sheepeater wickiups-tipi-like
structures composed of sticks and poles. Only a few remain in Yellowstone,
and none have been found in the interior of the park.
This falls can also be accessed by cross-country
skiing in winter, though snow conditions can be icy and change abruptly
between open meadow and shaded forest. Maneuvering in the forest also
is difficult, and the creek bottom generally has a greater snow load
from moisture and protection. Through most of the winter and early spring,
the falls or cascade is shrouded in snow and ice.