Heart Lake and Snake River for Labor Day

Jackson

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September 3-5, 2022

Jessica drew a great spot in the new lottery system for Yellowstone this past spring, so we decided to use that good fortune to go somewhere for Labor Day that would have been in fairly high demand. Jessica was interested in Heart Lake, and she and I had never been, so we reserved a couple of sites to do a shuttle route through the area. We were joined by our friend Andrew, who you've likely seen in various other reports I've posted. We had an additional spot on the reservation, but we weren't able to find anyone to fill it.

I had to wait a little bit to post this because @Pringles did the exact same route a week before us and posted a great trip report from it.

We got started on the Saturday before Labor Day. Got our permits in West Yellowstone and sat in a lot of traffic to get in to the park. Yellowstone just yesterday announced that September visits were actually down about 36% from last year. So I guess if Labor Day visits were down a similar percentage, the traffic wasn't as bad as it was last year.

We dropped Andrew's car at the trailhead near the south entrance, then we headed to the Heart Lake trailhead. Got started by early afternoon.

It was a warm day, not a cloud in the sky. The trail was pretty dusty.

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Crossing through a thermal area above the lake.

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A classic view. I mean, I had never personally seen it before, but I have seen a lot of photos of it.

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More thermal stuff as we get lower.

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We were pretty worn out from the sun and the heat by the time we got down to Heart Lake.

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We spent a good while hanging out on the large beach. Standing in the water, having a snack, rehydrating, taking photos, and listening to a loon calling out in the distance.

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Witch Creek near where it flows into the lake.

I know Heart Lake is probably the most popular backcountry destination in the park, but I guess we timed our entry and arrival at camp just right so we ended up seeing only a few people. One group at the trailhead, a pair at the lake, and a single person in the distance on the shore of the lake.

We got to camp and got set up. This camp site was fantastic. Right next to a good stream and great views. Also great views from the backcountry shitter, and great views of the shitter from the food prep area :lol:


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We went over to look at the lake some more as the sun was going down.

We sat around the fire for a bit after dark.

I accompanied Jessica over to the toilet as we were getting ready for bed. As I stood nearby, I saw eyes maybe 15-20 yards away reflecting back at me. My headlamp didn't illuminate whatever it was. It moved around a little but didn't stop looking. I clapped my hands together and spoke loudly, but it was still staring by the time we were headed back. Probably was a deer, but I made sure not to mention it until the next morning.

We heard an elk bugling not too far away that night too. Pretty cool.

We got up and got moving fairly quickly in the morning. We did have a little time to take it easy though.

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On the trail again, headed south, looking east.

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At the southwest corner of the lake. The beach was not as nice here.

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From there, we headed up into the woods and spent a good while walking through thick, younger growth. We saw Sheridan Lake just barely through the trees along this part. I think we also saw what was the old trail that used to go down by the lake.

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We got to a pleasant little stream, probably Basin Creek, waded across, and had lunch in the shade.

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Eventually we busted out into some meadows. This is looking back behind us at Mt. Sheridan.

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There was a good amount of scat along the trail. This is the only one I photographed. I wonder if bears would find it interesting that we take so much interest in finding their poop.

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Approaching Basin Creek Lake.

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Looking back at Basin Creek Lake.

I think it was somewhere right after we had passed Basin Creek Lake that, as we were yelling out things to keep bears aware of us, I decided to yell an obscene line from I Think You Should Leave. Immediately after I finished, we noticed on our left that a group of backpackers was sitting right off the trail having lunch. We hadn't seen anyone all day, and of course they were right there. We all acted like nothing happened, exchanged pleasantries, and went on our way.

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Big meadows along Basin Creek, where Basin Creek and Red Creek come together.

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We came across this mule train as we neared the Snake River. There was the guy leading the train, maybe another outfitter or two, and then a group of maybe 4 or 5 women on horseback. We assumed they were rich people going on some sort of "luxury" backcountry outing given that they had quite a few mules, and they were carrying quite a bit. They seemed a little surprised to have come across anyone, and aside from the outfitters, most of them didn't acknowledge us when we greeted them. That kind of bugged me.

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Views from above the Snake River.

We got to the river and took a good break after crossing.

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Jessica cooling off.

We shouldered the packs again after a while and headed to our camp site.

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Getting close.

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Got the tents set up. I really liked this tent area.

We went down by the river after we were all set up and washed our faces, then we had dinner.

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We spent some time along the river in the evening. Got back to camp just before dark and spent some time around the fire.

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Great views in the morning after the sun rose.

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Sun coming from around the corner.

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The gang, ready to hike out.

The air got progressively smokier as we hiked out. We had had a pretty good late summer as far as smoke until that point. It got even worse back up in Bozeman after we got back.

Didn't get too many photos on the hike out.

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Here's Andrew crossing the Snake at the very end.

Great to get out and see Heart Lake and not have to do it as an out-and-back! I like to complain about hot weather and lack of clouds, but the weather was pretty great and didn't make hiking difficult or anything. Thanks for reading!
 
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wsp_scott

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Probably was a deer, but I made sure not to mention it until the next morning.
I would have done the same thing. Did you ever mention the eyes? What did she say? :)

Looks like a great trip
 

Jackson

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I would have done the same thing. Did you ever mention the eyes? What did she say? :)

Looks like a great trip
Haha I did the next morning as we were packing up to leave! She greatly appreciated that I had waited to say anything, and we all agreed it was most likely a deer. Especially since we had seen a few near camp in the afternoon a little after we arrived.
 

scatman

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Great report Jackson! Heart Lake is such a great trip, even if it is pretty popular. I've been there four times over the years and I never get tired of it.

You need to find that bear that left the scat! :D

All trips get exponentially better when you run into a mule train, or maybe it ran into you? :thumbsup:

Did you see contemplation rock when you were hiking through the big meadow along Basin Creek?

The next time you are back in the area, take a hike up Sheridan. Be sure and use the outhouse up there too, and leave the door open for a great view. :)
Also, when staying at 8C1, take a day hike up Forest Creek to the falls. You'll have to walk in the creek for a bit because the canyon walls close in on you before reaching the falls. Well worth the time though.
 

Jackson

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Great report Jackson! Heart Lake is such a great trip, even if it is pretty popular. I've been there four times over the years and I never get tired of it.

You need to find that bear that left the scat! :D

All trips get exponentially better when you run into a mule train, or maybe it ran into you? :thumbsup:

Did you see contemplation rock when you were hiking through the big meadow along Basin Creek?

The next time you are back in the area, take a hike up Sheridan. Be sure and use the outhouse up there too, and leave the door open for a great view. :)
Also, when staying at 8C1, take a day hike up Forest Creek to the falls. You'll have to walk in the creek for a bit because the canyon walls close in on you before reaching the falls. Well worth the time though.
It was a mutual running-in-to. We stepped off the trail, and the lead outfitter said that we should probably take a few more steps off the trail because the mules like their space.

I imagine I saw that rock but I didn't recognize it as something well known. Is this is right here? https://goo.gl/maps/PdjEaXF5mbr3a7946

I'd really have liked to go up there if we had given ourselves more time. We got in to camp in the late afternoon/early evening, and we had 11ish miles to cover the next day. I'll give myself some more time next time so we can go up there!

I believe Andrew has been back to those falls before and was telling us about it. Looks like it would make a great short side trip.
 

scatman

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It was a mutual running-in-to. We stepped off the trail, and the lead outfitter said that we should probably take a few more steps off the trail because the mules like their space.

I imagine I saw that rock but I didn't recognize it as something well known. Is this is right here? https://goo.gl/maps/PdjEaXF5mbr3a7946

I'd really have liked to go up there if we had given ourselves more time. We got in to camp in the late afternoon/early evening, and we had 11ish miles to cover the next day. I'll give myself some more time next time so we can go up there!

I believe Andrew has been back to those falls before and was telling us about it. Looks like it would make a great short side trip.

Yes, that's it. I've often wanted to spend an afternoon just contemplating life, on that rock. :)
 

Jackson

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Yes, that's it. I've often wanted to spend an afternoon just contemplating life, on that rock. :)
Looks like you could get over there with minimal marsh walking if you keep to the north and then drop down! Or you could bomb right through the willows and water Scatman style.
 

scatman

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Looks like you could get over there with minimal marsh walking if you keep to the north and then drop down! Or you could bomb right through the willows and water Scatman style.

I've passed it three times without making my way out to it. Those were all mistakes on my part. I may have to plan a trip just to reach the rock. :)
 

Outdoor_Fool

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@Jackson Great TR. I ended up at Heart L a couple weeks ago after being blown out of the Washakie by snow. Heart L never grows old.

BTW, the "south fork" of Basin Creek flows north out of Basin Creek L, not over to Red Creek. It meets Basin Creek then continues east a bit and south to the Snake River.
 

Jackson

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@Jackson Great TR. I ended up at Heart L a couple weeks ago after being blown out of the Washakie by snow. Heart L never grows old.

BTW, the "south fork" of Basin Creek flows north out of Basin Creek L, not over to Red Creek. It meets Basin Creek then continues east a bit and south to the Snake River.
Really is a wonderful place. Interesting thinking about how they were getting snow over there in the Washakie back a few weeks ago, and it's probably, warm, sunny and dry now! You must have been out around the same time that I was over in the Bechler area getting rained on.

Looks like I should've consulted a map before spreading misinformation! Haha. Thanks for that correction!
 

Rockskipper

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When someone's rude like that and refuses to acknowledge you, one good payback is to yell out after they've all passed something like, "Watch out for those three grizzlies we saw not far up the trail," or Bigfoot, or eyes glowing in the dark...whatever strikes your fancy at the time. The more creative the better. Boy-scout troop works, too.
 

Outdoor_Fool

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most of them didn't acknowledge us when we greeted them.

That used to bother me too but I finally came to the conclusion that it was more an indication of their mental state, nothing directed at others. Of course, I have no idea if my theory is correct or not. Maybe they were nervous about the horses on a tight trail going uphill, or sleeping in grizzly country, or whether their 401k's were tanking while they were out.
 

Bob

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Nice....... see a fishing pole case.......How was fishing.
 

OldBill

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Great report! Didn't realize you could ford the Snake anywhere. Was in the Winds at that time - had great weather and seemed Labor Day crowds were less than last year there as well. Yeah, not having common courtesy to return a greeting would bug me too. May have been city-folks where it's common to ignore others. See it all the time here in CT - even hiking the Whites in NH. At least you had a great trip with no bad encounters of the griz kind.
 
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Jackson

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Nice....... see a fishing pole case.......How was fishing.
I don't think it was too great. He spent some time trying it on Heart Lake the first night and maybe had a few bites, but that was it.
 

CodyL

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Great trip report Jackson!! Really enjoyed the pics. Looks like you had great time. +1 on climbing Sheridan, it's one of my favorite views in Yellowstone, especially on a clear day when you can see all the way across the park!
 

BobFink

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Great trip report. My wife and I entered at the South Entrance TH and hiked out to the headwaters of the Snake/Fox Creek Patrol Cabin via Heart Lake Trail and Fox Creek Trail. It was incredibly hot for Labor Day. We probably were a half day behind you coming out at the South Entrance.

We walked past the horse packers camp (Group you passed on the Heart Lake Trail) on the Basin Creek Cutoff Trail. Not exactly No Trace Camping. Client tents out in the meadow quite a distance, guide tents along the trail, horses and mules everywhere. They were quite noisy the night prior as we could hear them from our site. No one returned our waves as we walked by their camp. I thought you would be amused by our experience.

We really enjoyed the Heart Lake Trail/Basin Cuttoff Trail. Saw many Red Tail and Swainson Hawks and a few Kestrels in the Red Creek Meadow. The upper Snake River was quite beautiful approaching the south boundary trail.

Thanks for the great pictures in the trip report.
 

Jackson

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Great trip report. My wife and I entered at the South Entrance TH and hiked out to the headwaters of the Snake/Fox Creek Patrol Cabin via Heart Lake Trail and Fox Creek Trail. It was incredibly hot for Labor Day. We probably were a half day behind you coming out at the South Entrance.

We walked past the horse packers camp (Group you passed on the Heart Lake Trail) on the Basin Creek Cutoff Trail. Not exactly No Trace Camping. Client tents out in the meadow quite a distance, guide tents along the trail, horses and mules everywhere. They were quite noisy the night prior as we could hear them from our site. No one returned our waves as we walked by their camp. I thought you would be amused by our experience.

We really enjoyed the Heart Lake Trail/Basin Cuttoff Trail. Saw many Red Tail and Swainson Hawks and a few Kestrels in the Red Creek Meadow. The upper Snake River was quite beautiful approaching the south boundary trail.

Thanks for the great pictures in the trip report.
Thanks! I bet that was a great trip, heat notwithstanding.

Regarding the horse group, I'm glad to know that it wasn't just a misconception on my part and they really were just not very friendly overall. Confirms my bias haha.
 
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