Hayden Valley Loop - Yellowstone National Park - September 17, 2021

scatman

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Finishing off my third Pop-tart, I opened the door of the car to a chilling 17 degree morning at the pullout near Trout Creek in Hayden Valley. As I try to bend my cold knees to limber them up a tad, I gaze to the west amazed that this will be my seventh substantial hike into Hayden Valley over the years. After doing the Mary Mountain Trail years ago, I never really thought that I would return, but all my time in Yellowstone has told me that this valley is the heartbeat of the Park, and if I am lucky enough, I will return hopefully another seven times to feel its pulse over and over again.

This day hike was a 21 mile loop that started and ended at Trout Creek essentially. We would head west, following the old stagecoach road up Trout Creek on the south end of the valley. Once we reached the western end of the valley, we would then make our way off-trail to explore Alum Creek as we headed northeast. At the point where Alum Creek almost meets up with the Mary Mountain Trail, we hopped on the trail and headed east on the north end of the valley. Before reaching the road though, we broke off to the south and made our way to Crater Hills and the thermal area located there.

This was @TractorDoc and @wsp_scott 's first time doing a hike in Hayden Valley and I sort of promised them that they would get to see a grizzly or two, but that never panned out for us on this day. Sorry guys! :( This trip turned out to be all about the bison as we ran into four separate herds, along with multiple lone bulls. It will be interesting to hear my two hiking partners impressions of the valley. It certainly is a lot to take in in a singe day. Maybe they will do it again with me sometime in the future. :thumbsup::thumbsup:

I had four goals for this hike, the first being to find the old Army snowshoe cabin, second, to revisit Larry's Lunch Counter, third, to explore Glen Africa Basin, and last, to pick up the stagecoach road that runs north and south to Crater Hills. Fortunately for us, we were able to do all three.

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Overview map of our 21 mile loop through Hayden Valley

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On the old road before the sun has come up. Hint for the day - Frozen sagebrush is hard on the shins. :)

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Ah, some sunshine at last. The sun angle brings out the old ruts pretty well in this shot. Heading west though the southern end of the valley

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Just think what it must have been like to ride a stagecoach across the valley 140 years ago.

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One of the casualties in the valley

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This one is more recent

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Mount Washburn to the north

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This Bull ponders our intent

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Gives one the extent of the valley

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I always love this view of the old stagecoach roadbed cutting through the hillside

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We'll be heading up through the trees ahead, just left of the upper center of this shot

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Well, no grizzly sighting on this hike, but we did run into some scat along our way

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Watching our every move
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The lovely rolling hills of Hayden Valley with Violet Hot Springs off in the distance to the north.

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A small piece of a dish or bowl perhaps at Larry's Lunch Counter. Larry's is where stagecoach riders would stop for lunch on their way from Lower Geyser Basin to Lake as they made their way across the Park

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Some thick colored glass

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The old Army snowshoe cabin

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Heading towards Glen Africa Basin

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There has been lots of death in the basin. Bones were strewn everywhere.

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Thermal feature in Glen Africa

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Thermal feature

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Thermal feature in the basin

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Next up is Alum Creek

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Absolutely loved the hike down Alum

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The meandering Alum Creek

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Alum Creek

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Bison at Alum Creek


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Alum Creek

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More Alum

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A collared bison. :( For those who have hiked/backpacked with me can attest, I don't go around the herds, I make my way through them. This might have made Dave and Scott a bit nervous at first, but they caught on quickly. :)

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Approaching another herd and the Mary Mountain Trail

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Bison in Hayden - it doesn't get any better than that.

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A lone bull

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Alum Creek viewed from the Mary Mountain Trail

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Getting ready to ford Alum Creek on our way to Crater Hills

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Picking up the old stagecoach road just to the north of Crater Hills. In the distance, you can make out the ruts crossing the valley

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Arriving at Crater Hills

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Violently, bubbling thermal pool at Crater Hills

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View from the top of Sulphur Mountain

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Looking west from up high

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View of the old stagecoach road, heading up the hillside, running to the southeast from Crater Hills

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Leaving Crater Hills on the old roadbed

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The bluffs above Trout Creek and traffic at a bison jam on the Grand Loop Road

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Trout Creek and the Yellowstone River flowing through Hayden Valley near the hikes end.

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Trout Creek signpost with @wsp_scott walking the road back to the pullout where we began at the crack of dawn earlier in the day.

Well, this ended a spectacular ten days in Yellowstone for me. I did have one more day hike before heading back to Salt Lake though, as I had left my Steripen :( at the campsite on Gneiss Creek a week ago and I wanted to go back to see if it was still there.

In my opinion, this is the quintessential day hike in the Park. If you are heading to Yellowstone to backpack, or maybe just hit the tourist spots, set aside a day for an exploration of Hayden Valley. I don't think that you will be disappointed.

Dave and Scott, please add some truth, humor and your perspective to this report when you get a chance. The BCP audience needs an accurate account of this, and since you both seem to be facts driven, I will leave it in your hands to sort the chaff from the wheat so to speak. :scatman:


The End
 
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Well, I don't know how much more truth I can add to the story and while I'm still working on pictures from our time down in Bechler I did fast forward to highlight a couple favorites.

As Hugh said, it was cold at the trail head. So cold in fact that he chose to eat his pop tarts while still in the car!

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Once we were on the move though Hugh was often times out of mosey mode and leading the way. If I did not know any better I'd say he's been thru Hayden Valley so many times he is starting to make his own set of ruts. . .

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At Larry's Lunch Counter we found evidence on the ground of old and new visitors to the area. Check out those leg wounds!

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Group shot at the old Snowshoe Cabin -- to find it was one of the day's many hilites!

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Hugh leading the way up Alum Creek as we exited Glen Africa Basin.

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Scott was not big on having his picture taken, but was an avid picture taker (like myself!)

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Hey Hugh, I Mustache you a question. . . .

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Scott and Hugh as we scoped out the first Bison Herd that we passed by.

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Hugh was not kidding when he says he walks right thru them. When at the first herd and I asked which side we should use to get around them he simply pointed his trekking pole at the center and said "I'm going that way." I followed knowing that if the herd decided to object to our presence I was out of luck, but if a lone bull decided to chase us I could probably outrun Hugh. :)

One of the locals sizing up the strange new invaders.

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When we reached the Crater Hills area Hugh scampered up Sulfur Mountain (the stagecoach ruts don't go up there Hugh!) and disappeared for a period of time. Scott and I thought we had lost him and were ready to head back to the car. . . until he popped out from behind a rock and all was well with the world again.

Scott as he and I were about to leave Hugh behind.

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By the time we made it back to the Old Faithful area for supper the sun had dipped down behind the trees. We ordered takeout from the Snow Lodge and while you could not see the table (because it was dark) the spread looked something like this (from the day before).

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I cannot thank Hugh enough for letting me tag along on this week's adventures, and it was great to meet and get to know Scott as well. Hoping we can continue to experience future adventures in Yellowstone and beyond!
 
Great trip report(s). Now I want to explore the valley. I wont do 21 miles, but sometimes just a teaser is fulfilling. While you all were doing 21 miles in a day, I did 12 weekends in a row, It doesn’t compare , at all, but I saw pretty places and things, too. You’ve certainly convinced me I have to leave the parking lot. Maybe its the pop tarts…
 
21m dayhike...... You're killing me just thinking of that

You could have done this hike @Bob. This was much easier than the 16 miles with a big pack from a few day earlier. It was pretty flat for the most part and easy hiking. The Crater Hills area had some up and down to it, but we were close to the finish line by then. I've seen you in the Beartooths and listened to your Winds adventures, so I'm confident that you would have been just fine on this hike. Besides, you're faster than me on the straightaways anyways. :)
 
+1 on that. How long did this marathon day hike take?

Not 100% sure on this. We started a little after 7:00 am and finished up somewhere between 6:00 and 6:30 ish? @TractorDoc might have the exact total time for the day, but I'd guess 11 to 11.5 hours to complete.
 
Well, I don't know how much more truth I can add to the story and while I'm still working on pictures from our time down in Bechler I did fast forward to highlight a couple favorites.

As Hugh said, it was cold at the trail head. So cold in fact that he chose to eat his pop tarts while still in the car!

View attachment 102291

Once we were on the move though Hugh was often times out of mosey mode and leading the way. If I did not know any better I'd say he's been thru Hayden Valley so many times he is starting to make his own set of ruts. . .

View attachment 102292

At Larry's Lunch Counter we found evidence on the ground of old and new visitors to the area. Check out those leg wounds!

View attachment 102293

Group shot at the old Snowshoe Cabin -- to find it was one of the day's many hilites!

View attachment 102294

Hugh leading the way up Alum Creek as we exited Glen Africa Basin.

View attachment 102295

Scott was not big on having his picture taken, but was an avid picture taker (like myself!)

View attachment 102296

Hey Hugh, I Mustache you a question. . . .

View attachment 102297

Scott and Hugh as we scoped out the first Bison Herd that we passed by.

View attachment 102298

Hugh was not kidding when he says he walks right thru them. When at the first herd and I asked which side we should use to get around them he simply pointed his trekking pole at the center and said "I'm going that way." I followed knowing that if the herd decided to object to our presence I was out of luck, but if a lone bull decided to chase us I could probably outrun Hugh. :)

One of the locals sizing up the strange new invaders.

View attachment 102299

When we reached the Crater Hills area Hugh scampered up Sulfur Mountain (the stagecoach ruts don't go up there Hugh!) and disappeared for a period of time. Scott and I thought we had lost him and were ready to head back to the car. . . until he popped out from behind a rock and all was well with the world again.

Scott as he and I were about to leave Hugh behind.

View attachment 102290

By the time we made it back to the Old Faithful area for supper the sun had dipped down behind the trees. We ordered takeout from the Snow Lodge and while you could not see the table (because it was dark) the spread looked something like this (from the day before).

View attachment 102300

I cannot thank Hugh enough for letting me tag along on this week's adventures, and it was great to meet and get to know Scott as well. Hoping we can continue to experience future adventures in Yellowstone and beyond!

Great pictures Dave, thanks for sharing them. Your mustache picture gives away my secret to wandering through the herds. :) They just thought we were some of the regulars. By the way, that is more hair on my upper lip than I have grown in my 42 combined years of shaving.
 
Great trip report(s). Now I want to explore the valley. I wont do 21 miles, but sometimes just a teaser is fulfilling. While you all were doing 21 miles in a day, I did 12 weekends in a row, It doesn’t compare , at all, but I saw pretty places and things, too. You’ve certainly convinced me I have to leave the parking lot. Maybe its the pop tarts…

12 weekends in a row is fantastic. I know that you were able to make it to some campsites that I have never visited before. Hopefully we will get to read some of your trip reports here soon. :thumbsup:

The Crater Hills area makes for some good exploration without having to hike too many miles. It's well worth a visit if you haven't been before.
 
This was a great day, but really long. I would have been happier if it had ended up being a couple miles shorter, but I'm not sure what I would cut out. The old cabin was the farthest from the road, but that valley was very neat. I'd like to hike farther up the creek to see what is there.

Looking at the map, if I wanted to make a shorter day but still have all the highlights, I'd probable head towards that lake in the middle from Glen Africa and come out near Sulfur Mountain. That would cut out the Mary Mountain and Alum Creek part, but would make for a more "reasonable day".

I think our hike ended up being slightly more than 11 hours. But then a lot of driving to and from Old Faithful, it was a long day. With that said, I highly recommend spending time in the Hayden Valley. It is beautiful from the road, but even better once you start hiking.

P.S. I'm still not convinced there are bears in Yellowstone. I think @scatman planted the scat as a joke :)
 
Perhaps Hugh's Tuna Tortilla and my Savory Sofrito Mussels were not aromatic enough to draw them in.

I'm thinking next time I can sneak a fresh trout in to the ScatPack to see if we get better results.

And here I was thinking that those circus peanuts were the magic attractant that @scatman used for bears … or maybe the bears are catching onto his tricks.
 
And here I was thinking that those circus peanuts were the magic attractant that @scatman used for bears … or maybe the bears are catching onto his tricks.

I think Hugh may have offered to share some of his tuna, but I doubt he would have let go of a peanut even if it was to draw the bears in. :)
 
This was a great day, but really long. I would have been happier if it had ended up being a couple miles shorter, but I'm not sure what I would cut out. The old cabin was the farthest from the road, but that valley was very neat. I'd like to hike farther up the creek to see what is there.

Looking at the map, if I wanted to make a shorter day but still have all the highlights, I'd probable head towards that lake in the middle from Glen Africa and come out near Sulfur Mountain. That would cut out the Mary Mountain and Alum Creek part, but would make for a more "reasonable day".

I think our hike ended up being slightly more than 11 hours. But then a lot of driving to and from Old Faithful, it was a long day. With that said, I highly recommend spending time in the Hayden Valley. It is beautiful from the road, but even better once you start hiking.

P.S. I'm still not convinced there are bears in Yellowstone. I think @scatman planted the scat as a joke :)

I carry my rubber scat around for just such an occasion. :)
 
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