The Gallatin River, Bighorn and Fawn Passes, Yellowstone National Park - September 7, 2023

scatman

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It was time for my annual September trip into Yellowstone. This years destination was campsite WB1, located on the Gallatin River in the northwest quadrant of the Park. As in the past, on this trip we would set up a base camp at WB1, with one day hike to Big Horn Pass, and a second day hike to Fawn Pass.

Day 1

Seven of us gathered in West Yellowstone in the early afternoon at the Visitors' Center Backcountry Office to pick up our official permit. The gentleman staffing the office and getting us our permit remembered us from last year's off-trail route to Joseph's Coat Springs.

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@TractorDoc up to his usual trip planning changes no doubt. :)

After getting the permit (we didn't have to watch the safety film), we headed over to Ernie's for some lunch. After eating we headed out for the Bighorn Pass Trailhead. Two of our group decided that they needed to run to a nearby grocery store to get some tea for the backcountry. I asked if they wanted me to wait for them, or did they just want to meet us at the trailhead. They agreed to meet us at the trailhead. This is when I told them that the trailhead was located 20 miles north of West Yellowstone on the right hand side of Highway 191. They said, "OK" and left for the grocery store while the rest of us headed north to the trailhead.

Everyone was able to find the trailhead, located right after the 20 mile marker on 191, except the two jokers that had to go get tea.

We waited for about thirty minutes and decided that they must be lost. @TractorDoc, Brent and myself hoped in the Subaru and headed back towards West Yellowstone to see if we could get some cell reception and contact them, if they were still in town. We'll we couldn't contact them, and after driving most of the way back to West Yellowstone, we turned around and headed back to the trailhead. When we arrived, Cody told us the others had showed up about five minutes after we left to search for them. Turns out they had driven further north towards Black Butte Ranch before realizing that they must have missed the trailhead. 20 miles north of West Yellowstone! They wouldn't live this down for the rest of the trip.

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Heading to Ernie's. The two in the middle were the ones who got lost.

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The sign for the Bighorn Pass Trailhead with Highway 191 off to the left

It was about 4.4 miles into campsite WB1 from the trailhead, and Danny and Mark (The Lost Ones) took off for camp before we returned from looking for them. So the rest of us got our gear ready and started off on our way.

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Overview map of entire trip

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Ready to head to WB1

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Mileage sign near trailhead

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Horseshoe bend in the Gallatin River

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@TractorDoc happy to have a footbridge across the Gallatin

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The Gallatin River

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Waiting for the Scatman

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The Bighorn Pass Trail

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Entering the Gallatin River Meadows. I thought the meadows were beautiful.

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Back on the Gallatin

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Arriving at our campsite. It looks like I need to rotate my lens hood. :)

We arrived at camp around six in the evening, a little later than I would have liked, and we set up our tents and got ready for dinner. I thought WB1 was and excellent campsite with nice views up and down the river, and a nice water source (the river).

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Our tents

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20 miles! :D looks like this guy could use a Cold Smoke, or maybe some toilet paper.

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Must have been a Cold Smoke.

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@TractorDoc enjoying some ice cream

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Don't look for too long for it will burn your retinas. o_O

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Each evening, clouds would buildup and we would get some rain.


Day 2

Today's day hike would be to Bighorn Pass which was about 14 miles away from WB1. I felt a bit sluggish on day two and quickly fell behind the rest of the group on the way to the pass. Dave and Cody broke off and went to check out a waterfall to the north of the trail. The rest of us would get a peek at it on our way back down. We soon crossed the Gallatin Bear Management Boundary, which meant no off-trail travel while in the BMA. After taking a break, the real climbing to the pass began. I fell behind rather quickly again, but the views were wonderful. At the pass, we took a break and had some lunch and enjoyed the views.

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Time for breakfast on day two

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Gallatin River east of WB1

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We passed other campsites along the way

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Looking back the way we had come

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Some Harebells still in bloom

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Tributary of the Gallatin

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Another campsite post, this one for WB6

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First sign of bear

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Bull elk up on the hill at the top of the center clearing

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View to the north of the trail

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View back down the Gallatin River drainage

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Thistle was plentiful in this area

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View to the east, climbing to the pass. Looking at the west side of unnamed peak 10,163.

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Nearing the pass

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Another look back down the Gallatin River drainage

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At the pass.

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Time for lunch

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Great view off the east side of the pass. Way in the distance is Bunsen Peak

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Quadrant Mountain

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Bannock Peak

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Pink at the Pass! :D

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Group shot

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Getting the perfect angle, on our way back to camp

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Camp is around the bend

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Wildflowers

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Bringing up the rear once again. :) Heading down to see some falls.

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Mushrooms

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Coyote track

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Heading towards Stone Hollow Falls

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Stone Hollow Falls - an extremely slippery approach to these falls, so watch your step.

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Back at camp and dinner time before it rains

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My dinner.

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Well deserved today.

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Dave had the same idea for dinner

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View to the east from my tent on the evening of day 2



Day 3

After day two, I thought day three would be a slog for me, but I woke up feeling good and ready for the hike up to Fawn Pass. While a shorter hike than the previous day's, the climbing on this one would begin right off the bat as opposed to at the end on Big Horn.

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First hill ahead

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The Fawn Pass Cutoff Trail

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Heading up the hill on the Fawn Pass Cutoff Trail

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Gaining some elevation

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At the junction with the Fawn Pass Trail

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View towards the Lee Metcalf Wilderness

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View to the south

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Looking up the Gallatin River below. Where we had hiked the previous day.

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A hawk above us

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Fireweed

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Bear track. There were not as many on the Fawn Pass Trail as there had been on the
Bighorn Pass Trail the day before.


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Looking back down towards camp

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Blue stain fungi caused the ring you see on the sewn log

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Unnamed Peak 9676

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Looking over at Crowfoot Ridge

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Made it to Fawn Pass which is lower than Bighorn Pass

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Grey Peak

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Not as harsh on the eyes on this pass. :D

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Group shot at the pass

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Ghost forest and cone flowers on our way back down

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WB1 is down there somewhere

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Back at camp and enjoying a piece of the Tony Chocolonely bar after completing Fawn Pass. Everyone had a piece to celebrate two
successful day hikes


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Now Dave and Cody had to leave one day early because they had reservations at Old Faithful, and had some hiking planned for the
Tetons, so we took a group shot of all seven of us before they hiked back out to the trailhead.


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And off they went.

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More clouds moved in which meant more rain that evening


Day 4

Day four was nothing more than eating breakfast, pack up, heading back to the trailhead, and getting lunch in West Yellowstone to celebrate our trip.

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Hiking out through the Gallatin River Meadows

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You've seen this one before, but it is worth seeing again. Scatman down! :D

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Big Horn Pass Trail

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Back on the Gallatin

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Horse and a mule + cowboy and cowgirl. Ah .... it's so romantic! :heart_eyes:

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Unloading some horses at the trailhead upon our return

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Trailhead info sign

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Best part of the sign. :)

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The Sube survived! :thumbsup:

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Danny arrives back at the trailhead. 20 miles mister! :)

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Drove back down to West Yellowstone for some food and a beer, and the Slippery Otter Pub was not open. :mad: :frantic:

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So it was off to The Buffalo Bar instead

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And remember not to do this.

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I liked the picture on the menu

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Hog trough Nachos as usual. Could use some Carolina Reapers don't you think? :hot:

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The only moose we saw on our trip was right above me. :)


This trip was a lot of fun, with a great campsite and two highly recommended day hikes, along with some excellent company to pass the time with. Already looking forward to next September's trip. :thumbsup:


The End.
 
Pretty sure I've had that guy do my permits in the backcountry office a few times as well. Is it the one from Arizona? He was much more chill this year than he was the year before haha.

Very cool loop! I've looked into routes in the area but always kind of stop looking because of how the sites are pretty sparse in the Fawn Pass/Fan Creek area and it just not being conducive to the routes I want to try/groups I want to go with. Looks like I just need to suck it up and go for it. Love that area of the park but have only spent time there xc skiing in the winter.
 
Really like that part of the park. Bummed that you didn't take me with you this time. I always thought it was interesting that the Gallatins are a truncated mountain range since the supervolcano destroyed the southern end during a mega eruption.

You should post that bog picture every chance you get. It has an inexplicable mesmerizing feel to it. I can almost hear the buzzing of the insects, your compadres talking, and you saying "Scatman down!" while everybody ignores you.
 
Thanks for letting Cody and I tag along on this one Hugh.

This was a wonderful group of days and a place in the park I'd like to return to someday.

You did not mention it, but it sure was windy on Bighorn Pass.

Nice picture of that hawk!

My Scatty senses were tingling on day four as I was watching Riverside Geyser. . . that must have been when you went down. :)

I'll be sure to post my version of events, once I get thru the Teton Wilderness of course.
 
Pretty sure I've had that guy do my permits in the backcountry office a few times as well. Is it the one from Arizona? He was much more chill this year than he was the year before haha.

Very cool loop! I've looked into routes in the area but always kind of stop looking because of how the sites are pretty sparse in the Fawn Pass/Fan Creek area and it just not being conducive to the routes I want to try/groups I want to go with. Looks like I just need to suck it up and go for it. Love that area of the park but have only spent time there xc skiing in the winter.

You'd like this I think @Jackson. The campsite is very nice, and both day hikes are top notch. There was a lot of grizzly sign on the Bighorn Pass Trail, but very little on the Fawn Pass Trail. Not sure why that is the case though.

Day hikers that we passed going in and out all said that the meadows along the Gallatin River were great for wildlife, but we only saw the bull elk at a great distance, and a buck on our way out, which ran away as soon as it spotted us.
 
Really like that part of the park. Bummed that you didn't take me with you this time. I always thought it was interesting that the Gallatins are a truncated mountain range since the supervolcano destroyed the southern end during a mega eruption.

You should post that bog picture every chance you get. It has an inexplicable mesmerizing feel to it. I can almost hear the buzzing of the insects, your compadres talking, and you saying "Scatman down!" while everybody ignores you.

Oh trust me, everyone ignores me. :D

You know you always have an open invitation on all my trips Skipper. One of these days you are just going to have to go for broke and join us. :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:
 
Thanks for letting Cody and I tag along on this one Hugh.

This was a wonderful group of days and a place in the park I'd like to return to someday.

You did not mention it, but it sure was windy on Bighorn Pass.

Nice picture of that hawk!

My Scatty senses were tingling on day four as I was watching Riverside Geyser. . . that must have been when you went down. :)

I'll be sure to post my version of events, once I get thru the Teton Wilderness of course.

You guys are both always welcome too. If you just didn't live so far away, it would make things a lot easier. :)

Yeah, I forgot about that wind.

Maybe your Scatty senses is the reason I fell? :D Should have known.

Looking forward to your version of the story.
 
Great report. I've read a lot about that section of the park. Looks like I'll have to explore it at some point...

Hope the body is holding up for you!

I thought that was creative vignetting rather than a lens hood issue. You should call it that instead. ;)
 
Great report. I've read a lot about that section of the park. Looks like I'll have to explore it at some point...

Hope the body is holding up for you!

I thought that was creative vignetting rather than a lens hood issue. You should call it that instead. ;)

You up for joining us next September - 20th trough the 23rd?
 
Great looking trip. I will have to try that beer next time I'm up that way. My wife and I stayed in West Yellowstone last weekend and had dinner at The Slippery Otter. My wife isn't much of a beer drinker but our waiter brought her a sample of Kettle SnowBlind, she ordered and drank an entire pint by herself and had me track some down to bring home with us.
 
Great looking trip. I will have to try that beer next time I'm up that way. My wife and I stayed in West Yellowstone last weekend and had dinner at The Slippery Otter. My wife isn't much of a beer drinker but our waiter brought her a sample of Kettle SnowBlind, she ordered and drank an entire pint by herself and had me track some down to bring home with us.

Yeah, Cold Smoke is a good beer. I think you'd enjoy it. Never had SnowBlind, but it looks interesting.
 
Scatman, your pink ensemble is great. It stands out in the wilds, yet is fashionable and functional.

Thanks for all the great pictures and commentary. It’s the other side of the park from me, but I hope to explore there some. But heck, it’s all beautiful.
 
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