Lamar River, Mist Creek, Pelican Valley, Hot Springs Basin, Rainbow Springs and Joseph Coat Springs

Keith

Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2014
Messages
75
@Joey and I completed a 7 day backpacking trip Sept 27th to Oct 3rd in Yellowstone. We started at the Lamar River trailhead, followed the Lamar River and Mist Creek, went over Mist Pass, through Pelican Valley to Wapiti Lake, around Hot Springs Basin and Rainbow Springs, down Broad Creek, around Joseph Coat Springs and finally to Canyon. It provided a complete mix of Yellowstone experiences – wildlife, rivers, passes, meadows, springs and thermals. We prepared for cold weather and rain by bringing lots of gear and lots of food. It would mean heavy backpacks!

Day 1 – Lamar Valley

We only planned about 5 miles on the first day but ended up going closer to 6 after going around a bison herd. I had spent the previous night at Madison and @Joey at the South Entrance. I spent a few hours that morning kicking around 100 Springs Plain (the other basin at Norris) while @Joey got out permits. 100 Springs Plain is interesting – especially the old signs:

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I particularly enjoyed Cinder Pool that has black sulfur beads floating on it:

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We met at Canyon, made our final preparations and then pre-positioned @Joey's van at the Wapiti trailhead before heading to the Lamar River trailhead. It was a pretty windy start but Lamar Valley is beautiful:

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I have a suspicion that something interesting can be found in these exposed cliffs – something I hope to explore next summer:

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About a mile into the trip we ran into two guys coming back down. They would be the first 2 of 8 people we would see that week. They didn’t warn us about the bison herd just over the hill:

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We made a couple attempts to go through the herd but the bison were intent on making us go around. We first attempted to go around to the right (the flatter portion) but we kept finding more. We eventually resolved to go over the hill to the left but a male shadowed us for about 200 yards so we had to go VERY wide to the left. It was not a fun way to start the trip but avoiding wildlife became a common experience on the trip.

We arrived at the campsite, set everything up and enjoyed a nice fire. We took in the lunar eclipse before going to bed. That was a special treat and my second lunar eclipse in the park – the first being during the winter 5 or 6 years ago:

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Day 2 – Lamar Valley

Day 2 was a little more ambitious at just under 12 miles. It started off with a thrill as we headed up the hill to the main trail I didn’t notice a bison waiting for us at the top. I heard it before I saw it charging me. When it was about 15 feet away I turned and ran back towards @Joey. He then snapped a good picture:

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We spent the entire day following the Lamar River:

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I especially enjoyed our breaks relaxing soaking in the scenery:

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The rangers had warned us the camp site before ours was closed due to a carcass so of course we had to check it out. I had packed 3 bear sprays (I had intended to bring 1 spare but accidentally packed 2) spares) so we went in fully armed making a lot of noise. There was no longer a sign so I figured it had been cleared – flawless logic I’m sure. All we could find was a dug out fire pit:

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We did find an impressive amount of bear scat – including one with a bone fragment in it. Aside from the morning excitement, it was a delightfully uneventful day as we enjoyed hiking in the sun along the river and taking in the scenery.

Day 3 – Mist Creek

Day 3 started off pretty cold – our water bottles froze up. We only planned 5 miles but it was a section of the park that was new to both of us so we took our time enjoying the creeks, the meadows and the views:

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We left the Lamar River and switched over the Mist Creek which would lead us closer to Pelican Valley.

Our campsite was in a large picturesque meadow in a valley about a mile from Mist Creek Pass:

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We had hoped to see wildlife but were disappointed to find very little. We were starting to think the bears were getting ready for the government to shut down again. We even walked a good portion of the meadow at dusk but struck out.


Day 4 – Mist Creek Pass, Pelican Valley, Wapiti Lake

Day 4 was to be our longest at over 15 miles but it also promised to offer the most variety in scenery. It was colder than the night before so we waited for the sun to hit our tent before getting up. Joey spotted a deer in the meadow and elk in the hill above the valley so that was a good omen:

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We had a little over a mile climb to get to the top of Mist Creek Pass and the views looking back at the meadow were memorable:

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We also had great views to the east and south – Pelican Valley, Yellowstone Lake, West Thumb, Mount Sheridan, the Tetons and more:

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Our phones worked well enough at the pass to contact my wife and let her know we were alive. We also checked on football scores (Go Hawks!) and even a little Facebook with @scatman. At the bottom of the pass is Pelican Valley and we headed north through the heart of it. It seemed like every hill and turn we encountered a bison and had to give them a wide berth. Our 15 miles was getting hotter and longer! As we approached Raven Creek, Joey spotted a grizzly in the distance close to the trail. He has better pictures but here is mine:

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The grizzly stood up and checked us out which wasn’t very comforting. We crossed the creek, gave it a lot of distance and then took some pictures and video. @Joey then saw a second head pop up and he realized it was a sow with a cub. We packed up the cameras and walked very wide around her. The 15 miles was getting longer! We reached the edge of the valley, climbed a hill and enjoyed lunch with a view of the valley:

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I had half a bag of tuna and packed the remainder up in a ziplock bag.

The Pelican trail continues north popping in and out of meadows. It looks flat on a map but it’s surprisingly up and down and windy. Our 15 miles was getting longer! We visited a number of thermals along the trail:

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A few miles later we ran into a couple out for a day trip. I think @Joey subsequently figured at least one of them reads BCP. They told us they had recently visited Rainbow Springs and we told them we were headed that way as well. By now we were getting somewhat concerned about daylight. We had to keep dodging bison – our 15 miles was getting longer! We eventually came across the most impressive mud pot I’ve ever seen:


At this point we still had about 5 miles to go and were running low on daylight. With about 2.5 miles remaining we took a final break. I opened my food bag and realized my half eaten tuna had leaked all over my food bag. To make matters worse my phone was in there too! I was pretty angry with myself and without giving it much thought I dumped out the remaining tuna too close to the trail. Joey chastised me and we carried on. About a mile later a black wolf ran across the trail about 50 feet in front of us. It was exhilarating but it happened too quickly to take a picture. We later hypothesized that he went back to enjoy my tuna. We named him Ralph – he would become a big topic of conversation between Joey and me for the remainder of the trip. We figured he developed a taste for fish and starting fishing the Pelican River – especially after the pack chased him out for not sharing the tuna. We finally reached camp at Wapiti Lake with about 30 minutes of daylight so that was plenty of time to setup the tent and gather firewood so our “15 mile” day worked out perfectly. The woods near Wapiti are old growth, cool and creepy. The campsite is on a peninsula so all in all the area is very scenic.

That night the rain would start.

Day 5 – Hot Springs Basin and Rainbow Springs

I was enjoying the entire trip but I was really looking forward to Hot Springs Basin. I missed @Scatman’s trip their last fall because of a family wedding. @Joey was also interested in seeing Rainbow Spring a few miles deeper so we had several fun activities planned. It was raining as we departed but it wasn’t too cold. I was OK with it being from Seattle but @Joey wasn’t too pleased:

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We started by following Shallow Creek through a few thermals:

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We eventually reached the biggest thermal area and investigated the southern half:

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We then headed east to the second biggest area that @Joey calls a Caribbean lake. I’m sure the pictures would have been more impressive with sunlight:

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We then returned to the bigger area and explored the northern section which ended up being quite spectacular:

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It was then time to bushwhack a couple miles through the woods to Rainbow Springs. We didn’t know exactly what they would look like but had a pretty good idea of where they were located. We managed to find them without too much trouble. It’s not a huge area but it has some interesting features:

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This one is very interesting – the water flows all the way through this and down out at the bottom:

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I hope this isn’t the result of vandalism – the top of the cone is broken off and a few feet from the bottom of the feature (not seen here):

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We found the hot spring you can sit under – it even has built in seats:

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The foot prints that go up and to the right were not ours.

Once again we were running out of daylight so we had to get going back to camp. We decided on a more straightforward route to Wapiti Lake but we did divert a little for some other thermals. This lake was very hot and we gave it distance:

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We got back to camp with plenty of daylight and @Joey decided we needed to fix up camp and arrange the foot prep logs more optimally. They were previously laid out in a very strange formation:

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Day 6 – Broad Creek, Joseph Coat Springs

Day 6 would be mostly off trail with the backpacks in the rain. We followed the trail south from Wapiti for a little over a mile before breaking away and heading south down Broad Creek to 4B2 and eventually 4B1. We would spend the next 4 or so miles following Broad Creek through Broad Creek and its meadows which took us close to some thermal areas:

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We spent a little time looking for 4B2 but with the rain we were not in the mood for a protracted search. The rangers had indicated there was no sign of it remaining but when did we listen to rangers telling us no :)

I really enjoyed bushwhacking down Broad Creek but we gave up on keeping dry. The constant river crossings are bearable but the constant rain was a little annoying. Fortunately we were prepared with lots of clothing and food.

As we approached Joseph Coat Springs, Joey spotted 4B1 well before where I thought it would be according to my GPS data. The antlers helped:

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We spent about 45 minutes in the rain hoping for a break to set up the tent. We eventually gave up and put it up in the rain. It was 5PM. I was cold. I went to bed. @Joey ate and explored the springs. I had explored them extensively 2 years earlier so I was happy being dry and warm working on crosswords. It turns out my phone works better at Joseph Coat than it does in the front country. @Joey called his dad to get the weather forecast – it wasn’t very encouraging.

Day 7 – Bad Weather, Early return to Canyon

It rained all night. We had planned a return trip to Fairyland (we were there 3 years ago) but with the cold and rain we decided to get back to civilization. After 16 hours in the tent, we packed up in the rain and headed up the hill. We took in a few thermals – @Joey got a good picture of me:

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I took good film of him:


The climb out of Joseph back to the trail is a little over 2 miles. The rain alternated between drizzle and hard but we pressed on. Our feet were soaked but we stopped for food to reenergize ourselves. After reaching the trial it’s about 1 mile to 4M2 and then another 8 back to the road. We had both travelled that section a few times so I was pretty much on auto pilot to get back to the car. There are some pretty meadows as you get closer to Canyon. As we started down the final hill back to the car, I told @Joey it was all downhill from here. I was wrong. We saw people at the trailhead looking back up and a ranger coming closer to us in the distance. Then it occurred to me they were looking at something – then I noticed the grizzly in the trail about 100 yards ahead of us. It stood up and looked at us – we backed up and went very far off trail to get back to the car.

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It was time for quick coffee stop at Canyon and then over Dunraven to get back to my car. Then things got really exciting:

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The tow truck took us to my car and then I followed it and @Joey’s van to Gardiner.

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It was 5PM -- time for a quick shower before the 12 hour drive back to Seattle. I got home at 6AM, slept 4 hours and then watched football all day!

Featured image for home page:
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scatman

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Joined
Dec 23, 2013
Messages
1,666
@Keith - Great report! You didn't let @Joey talk you into avoiding those bison did you? My advice is to just plow right through; bend them to your will so to speak. ;) Or you could use the Danny method and fire off your air horn when right in the middle of the herd and see what chaos ensues.

Pelican Valley is a special place. It's only fitting that you got to see a grizzly while passing through. The two times that I have been through the valley, it was really windy also.

Tell me more about Rainbow Springs. Can you soak in Wrong Creek where the warm water meets the cold? Did you guys try this? It sure looks like an interesting place.

What was the campsite by Joseph's Coat Springs like? Is it nice? Did the Ranger in the backcountry office give you a coordinate for the location, or did you just have to search for it?
 

Artemus

I walk
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Joined
Jun 25, 2012
Messages
4,400
Great Keith! Thanks.
Tell me, how does one effectively deploy three cans of pepper spray when one only has two hands. Mouthpiece? Codpiece?
 

Keith

Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2014
Messages
75
@Keith - Great report! You didn't let @Joey talk you into avoiding those bison did you? My advice is to just plow right through; bend them to your will so to speak. ;) Or you could use the Danny method and fire off your air horn when right in the middle of the herd and see what chaos ensues.

We discussed both methods but took the @Joey/@Keith long way around method. What's an extra hour and mile on the trail when in paradise?

Pelican Valley is a special place. It's only fitting that you got to see a grizzly while passing through. The two times that I have been through the valley, it was really windy also.

I don't recall wind -- just the sun beating down on me. I probably would have walked right up to the bear -- @Joey is much better at spotting them. It was pretty thrilling -- my first bear in the backcountry!

Tell me more about Rainbow Springs. Can you soak in Wrong Creek where the warm water meets the cold? Did you guys try this? It sure looks like an interesting place.

I wish I had a picture of the hot springs flowing into the river. There certainly are plenty of places to sit down to each side of where I'm standing in this picture -- including some built in seats. There are various features flowing into Wrong Creek. It's pretty cool.

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I'll send you the route we took there and back. I used many of your Hot Springs Basin points getting there -- many thanks!

What was the campsite by Joseph's Coat Springs like? Is it nice? Did the Ranger in the backcountry office give you a coordinate for the location, or did you just have to search for it?

We just kind of stumbled upon it. I thought we might struggle to find it. We were walking down Broad Creek approaching the area and @Joey saw antlers and I said "there are antlers in 4B1" and boom there it was! It's up stream of where I thought it would be. I will send you the GPS coordinates. Here are more pictures. This is from across Broad Creek -- it's not flat. The site marker is in this picture but it's hard to pick out in the compressed image.

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There are two markers -- this faces the creek:

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This faces up the hill (towards 4M2):

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Over the top of the hill:

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Further up the hill:

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I already want to go back.
 

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Joey

walking somewhere
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Apr 1, 2014
Messages
878
Keith - Great report! You didn't let @Joey talk you into avoiding those bison did you? My advice is to just plow right through; bend them to your will so to speak. ;)
I told him that you would just walk right through them like the parting of the seas. :) He probably would have done it if it wasn't for me talking him out of it.
 

Joey

walking somewhere
Joined
Apr 1, 2014
Messages
878
Thanks for writing this report up @Keith . And thanks for making this a great trip. And thanks especially for helping with the tow. Keith covered the cost of my van getting towed to Gardiner ($450), and was reimbursed by Triple A.

We had great weather the first few days. The last few days not so much. 3 days with no sun is about as much as I can handle.

This was my first time going up Mist Creek and over the pass. The meadows where we camped were beautiful. Both of those campsites are 5 star in my opinion - 3T3 and 3T2.

The Wapiti Lake area is one of my favorite places in the park. Beautiful meadows, big game, endless thermal basins, hard woods, little burn area, and few people. Even though I enjoy the dark woods coming over from Canyon, either the Astringent Creek Trail or the Pelican Creek Trail are my favorite ways to reach that area. And that campsite on the peninsula is awesome!

This was also my first time accessing Joseph's Coat via Broad Creek. Really, really beautiful area, even in the rain. I think it was the biggest surprise of the trip. There is no trail down the creek, but its pretty straight forward, follow the creek down.

Joseph's Coat is such a cool place. So is Hot Springs Basin Group. It was a bummer we didn't get down to Fairyland, but that place has become like a "notch on one's belt" for Yellowstone hikers, and it's quite boring compared to the other areas. Joseph's Coat is just plain awesome!

I was surprised that we didn't see more wildlife, and at how quiet every night was. The last 10 days down in the Thorofare was a "war zone" every night. And that last grizzly was a lot closer than 100 yards when we saw him :).

I've got a few pictures from the trip here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153676243659766.1073741875.672719765&type=1&l=22c5cddf66

Looking forward to next year's adventures.
 
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Dave

Broadcaster, formerly "ashergrey"
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May 5, 2012
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1,722
Great report. Bummer the weather turned like that.
 

Keith

Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2014
Messages
75
Thanks for writing this report up @Keith . Keith covered the cost of my van getting towed to Gardiner ($450), and was reimbursed by Triple A..

Triple A is pretty awesome -- my family uses a lot more of their services than we pay for.

This was my first time going up Mist Creek and over the pass. The meadows where we camped were beautiful. Both of those campsites are 5 star in my opinion - 3T3 and 3T2.

Definitely one of the surprise hits of the trip -- especially the meadow and the pass.

The Wapiti Lake area is one of my favorite places in the park.

Agreed all around -- I need to take my family up there!

This was also my first time accessing Joseph's Coat via Broad Creek.

Really fun stomping off trail -- all of it.

Looking forward to next year's adventures.

September? Canyon to Mammoth? Spruce Creek?
 

Joey

walking somewhere
Joined
Apr 1, 2014
Messages
878
September? Canyon to Mammoth? Spruce Creek?
How about Fawn Pass, Sportsman Lake, and the Sky Rim Trail? Or maybe Pebble Creek to Mammoth? The 2 you mention might be better in August, when the weather is less likely to snow.
 

klank

one step at a time
Joined
Jul 29, 2013
Messages
77
fantastic report - thanks for sharing!
 

Keith

Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2014
Messages
75
How about Fawn Pass, Sportsman Lake, and the Sky Rim Trail? Or maybe Pebble Creek to Mammoth? The 2 you mention might be better in August, when the weather is less likely to snow.

@scatman told me to reserve August :). Both your suggestions sound great but I would lean towards Fawn/Sportsman/Sky Rim.
 

Cory

New Member
Joined
May 24, 2017
Messages
2
Joey and Keith, your video inspired me to try this hike. We were to try the Lamar River trail to Mist creek pass and then explore the Thermals along Pelican creek. Unfortunately, we over estimated our hiking abilities and only made it down to 3F1. This hike was harder than I anticipated but the views were absolutely gorgeous. Thank-You for the kick in the pants to get me out to Yellowstone. I do hope to return there one day and do some more exploring, it is just a bit far from Chicago. Your video was first class and I do look forward to watching more of them. Maybe even try out another of your favorite hikes. Thanks again and here's to maybe running into you one day on the trail.
C'ya
Cory
 
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