Yellowstone's Lamar River, Hoodoo Basin, and Eastern Boundary Loop

Joey

walking somewhere
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Apr 1, 2014
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878
This is a 5 day backpacking loop I did in Yellowstone National Park. I did this back in July, 2012, but its a pretty neat loop, possibly one of the best trips I've done in the park, so I thought I would share. Here is the trip route: http://caltopo.com/map?id=3S43 . I have a trip video for this, which is basically a photo slideshow, with a few neat video clips. You can check it out here:


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We started at the Lamar River Trailhead, in the northeast corner of the park. The first part of the hike is through the open Lamar Valley.
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Lots of Buffalo, and quite swampy near the river. My friend Kyle, who was hiking with me, sunk down to his waste in the mud.
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About 4 miles in, we forded Cache Creek, which wasn't deep but a little swift. After that, the canyon narrows around the river, and much of the terrain is fire burn. It was really hot and dry.

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It was late in the day by the time we reached Miller Creek. Miller Creek is really nice. Some fire burn exists, but its prettier than the Lamar River stretch. Lots of grizzlies around, and we couldn't help but notice all the scat and tracks. Its fairly common to see this in the Yellowstone backcountry, but it started getting excessive. We camped at backcountry campsite 3M2, which I think is the creepiest campsite I've stayed at (on par with a few along the Yellowstone River in the Thorofare). The food prep area is surrounded by the creek, and thick, dark woods with lots of grass and uneven terrain surround that. So we couldn't hear or see anything. Oh yeah, and there was grizzly scat all around the fire pit. Neither of us slept well that night.
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Kyle at the food prep area the morning of day 2
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Day 2 we headed up Miller Creek towards the Hoodoo Basin. We followed the river for several miles.
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Soon we began to climb out of the drainage, and the views got good
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We went up about 2 thousand feet, and soon were on a nice alpine ridge. We passed Parker Peak, and went through a saddle were we dropped into the Hoodoo Basin.
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Dropping down into the Hoodoo Basin
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The Hoodoos, and Hoodoo Peak
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We set up camp at backcountry campsite 3M7, which was near the Hoodoos, but in beautiful alpine meadows, with some nice views. Kyle commented that he felt better here than the night before, since he didn't think there were any bears around.
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After setting up the tent, we went to our food prep area, and started cooking dinner. I was in the middle of cooking some cheesy potatoes, when Kyle calming stated there was a grizzly bear in front of us. I thought he was kidding, but sure enough a grizzly was about a hundred yards away, grazing in a ravine that runs below the food prep area. Kyle went closer to get a better look, and I watched him through the binoculars. Photos are taken from our food prep area.
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While I was watching him, he lifted his head and winded us. Then he put his head back down and acted like he was still eating. But he wasn't. I could see his mouth close up through my binocs, and he was just moving his head through the grasses. I've read that bears will do this sometimes, like they are thinking about what they are going to do, and don't want to let anything know they know we are there. (Since this incident, I've witnessed this happen once more). Soon he lifted his head, and took a few galloping steps in our direction, before suddenly turning around and running off.
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Later that evening we walked past our camp to look around, and realized the bear had been digging all around us. He had probably been around a few days, and we were no doubt the first people to come through that year. Another night of somewhat light sleeping, but it was really pretty.
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Day 3 might be one of the most spectacular days of hiking I've done in Yellowstone National Park. We followed the trail to the park boundary, which looked like a giant golf course.
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Finally we made it to the Park's boundary with the North Absaroka Wilderness. There were spectacular views in all directions. The Beartooth's to the north, the Absaroka's to the east and south, The Tetons way off in the distant southwest, and all of Yellowstone to the west. I think this is the most spectacular spot I've been to in Yellowstone.
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Things only got better. From here, we left the trail, and headed southwest, following the park boundary. There is a faint game trail here in some places, although you don't really need a trail to travel. Pretty easy walking. And just wow views:
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As we rounded the Hoodoo Basin, and approached Lamar Mountain, we noticed a patrol cabin that isn't shown on the maps. I've since asked about it, and turns out backcountry rangers still use it to do poacher patrol in the fall.
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Now back to walking up to the top of Lamar Mountain:
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And more spectacular views at the top of Lamar Mountain:
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In these next pictures, your looking back north, northeast. Hoodoo Basin is below, and the snowcapped Beartooth's can be seen way off in the distance:
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We continued to follow the ridge along the park boundary, going up and down
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This next view is looking down the Little Lamar River drainage.
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We continued on
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We found an old can of bear spray, empty with a hole in it. Maybe someone shot it, maybe a bear got ahold of it.
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We were lucky enough to see some Bighorn Sheep.
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Finally we set up camp along the ridge, just outside the Yellowstone Park Boundary.
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Day 4 rainy weather moved in. We had already dropped down a bit from the ridge (instead of following the obvious route around the drainage). We skirted around cliffs, with Kyle trying to convince me to drop down into the valley, and me trying to convince him to climb up to the ridge top.
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The rain got harder, and Kyle won the argument. We dropped down to the Little Lamar River. At first we were able to find an old game trail, which we followed for a while.
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Then we reached fire burn, and extreme downfall. To add to the misery, the mosquitos were intense. It took us several hours to go the final few miles down to the Lamar River. Once at the Lamar, we followed that down to the main trail.
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Oh yeah, grizzly scat was everywhere again
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We reached the trail as it began to really downpour. We found our campsite 3U3, and went to bed early.
Day 5 we headed north, down the Lamar River.
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The very next backcountry campsite to where we had camped was closed because of bears. Apparently there was a grizzly on a carcass in the campsite.
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We continued on down the trail. Although much of the hillside is burned, some areas along the river are beautiful.
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We were suppose to camp one more night along Cache Creek, but talk of food got the better of us, and we hiked another 4 miles back to the trailhead.
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We drove up to Cooke City, where we ate deep fried Sloppy Joes and deep fried Snickers. If you ever find yourself in Cooke City during the summer, definitely try one of these.
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After dinner, we drove back down to the trailhead, and slept in the van (since we still had a permit to be parked there. As an FYI, its not really allowed, and they do check for that). We had a beautiful sunset, and got to listen to wolves howl. Only time we heard wolves on that trip.
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Last edited:

Parma

@parma26
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Feb 12, 2014
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Wow!
Great trip report. Light sleeping for sure with all those Grizzlies around.
 

Joey

walking somewhere
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Apr 1, 2014
Messages
878
Light sleeping for sure with all those Grizzlies around.
Yeah, the second night we ended up pulling dead tree branches around our tent, to sort of set up an alarm (maybe). It was pretty intense. The bear had been digging about 30 feet behind where we set up our tent. We were sharing a 3 man tent, and there normally is at least 2 feet between us. But that night we slept shoulder to shoulder.
 

Ben

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Sep 12, 2014
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1,873
excellent, even more than normal. i'd do this trip.
 

Eugene

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Mar 13, 2012
Messages
139
Excellent photos. Looks like a neat trip. Grizzly would be scary.
 

Joey

walking somewhere
Joined
Apr 1, 2014
Messages
878
So the bear could get a two for oner? That territory sounds like a good place to bite the bullet on an electric fence.
Haha, didn't think of it like that :). We probably should have done the lightning method, and spread out. That way if one of us got attacked, the other one could get away.

I've thought about getting one of those electric fences, especially if I make it up to Alaska and do solo stuff.
 

Joey

walking somewhere
Joined
Apr 1, 2014
Messages
878
i'd do this trip.
Get in touch with me when you get back from Alaska later in the summer. I'll be doing this September-ish. We are also doing a bigger version of this next summer (2016) if you can make that.
 

Nick

-
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Joined
Aug 9, 2007
Messages
12,934
Awesome trip report. One of the most compelling I've seen from Yellowstone. Love that dramatic scenery up toward the northeast side of things. Not so sure how I'd feel about all those grizzly bears though....
 

Artemus

I walk
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Jun 25, 2012
Messages
4,414
Great Joey! Thanks. I am going to go that place you call the best view in Yellowstone on the park boundary. When you say that it gets my attention. Great detail and info about your observations about bear encounters and their behavior. Important and interesting to me.

I really appreciate you breaking the pictures out and not just having them mixed in a movie. For me that makes the post more readable and interesting. Thank you.
 

WasatchWill

Ready For More
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Jul 23, 2013
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Fried Snickers? I've had fried Mars/Milky Way bars, and those are amazing. Now I have to try the Snickers version. Great TR! All that grizzly activity would have had the hair on my neck raised the whole time.
 

Vegan.Hiker

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Jul 5, 2014
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This is awesome. Love the contrast of black and white in the mountains. I would totally do this trip too if airfare can be had at a decent price.
 

Keith

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Nov 2, 2014
Messages
75
Another amazing trip! Those golf-course views are amazing and I think you were at 10,000 feet.

Were the hoodoos all close to the trail or did you have to seek them out?

I believe that cabin is at 12T 591152.79 m E 4948487.42 m N.

Grizzlies scare me. I think I would have slept close as well and used the buddy system for survival if attacked.

Really should circumnavigate the park some day.
 

Joey

walking somewhere
Joined
Apr 1, 2014
Messages
878
@Keith , the very next day after this trip is when I met you for the first time down at @scatman 's camp.

Another amazing trip! Those golf-course views are amazing and I think you were at 10,000 feet.
Yeah, I think it was above 10k. As an FYI, the golf course view is really only early in the summer. Come August and September, the snow melts and the grasses die out. Its not nearly as green, more like yellow. Because its somewhat gentle terrain along the ridges, its easy to navigate early in the season though.
Were the hoodoos all close to the trail or did you have to seek them out?
Right next to the trail. Real close to that second campsite, which we were camped at.
Really should circumnavigate the park some day.
Let me know when your ready to take the summer off.
 

Bob

Trailmaster
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Mar 3, 2013
Messages
2,932
Ok Joey ....I'll have to find my pics. I have mostly prints so I have to scan them. Our difference is we dropped straight south of Parker Peak and hit the ridge running west just by the creek, then all the way down the creek.....great brookie fishing, took us forever to get out. And we went out Mist pass to Pelican TH.
 

scatman

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Dec 23, 2013
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Bravo, another splendid report! I like all the pictures, but the one with Kyle waist deep in the muck is my favorite.
 
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