Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Exploring the undiscovered country
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It was America’s first national park, and it remains our most iconic. Yet Yellowstone may well be the least explored famous park in the contiguous United States.
By virtue of its vast size, Yellowstone has regions that could swallow other parks wholeregions that few visit and fewer still can claim to know. So, while thousands of tourists crowd around a few familiar waterfalls and geysers, hundreds of other falls and geothermal features are seen by perhaps a few dozen hikers from one year to the next.
This is the real Yellowstoneand every inch of it is within walking distance.
All prices in U.S. dollars
5 Perfect Days
The Ultimate Itinerary
Enter at the park’s little-used northeast gateway and claim a site at the small Slough Creek campground. This is a prime area for wildlife viewing and home to the Druid Peak wolf pack. Yellowstone Institute trip leader Nancy Proctor saw wolves there on almost every trip last year.
Drive south to Bridge Bay to begin a paddling tour of Yellowstone Lake’s Southeast Arm. (Canoes or kayaks can be rented in Jackson, Wyoming.) A one-hour motorboat shuttle ($110 each way; +1 307 344 7311) takes you to Promontory Tip.
Paddle eight miles [13 kilometers] down the east shore of the Promontory, then set up camp (for the next two nights) at Southeast Arm Inlet. Keep your eyes out for the white pelican nesting areas as you pass the Molly Islands (but keep your distance).
“Between grizzlies and sudden wind blasts, you have to be on your toes down there,” veteran paddler Larry Rice says of the Southeast Arm. Explore the Yellowstone River delta and admire sandhill cranes, bald eagles, ospreys, hawks, trumpeter swans, and peregrine falcons.
Move your camp to Trail Bay, then bushwhack up Colter Peak. (Early in the summer, this area may be closed for bear management. Check first.) The view from the summit takes in hundreds of square miles of pure wilderness.
That evening in camp, “you’ll hear a symphony of animal sounds,” says the lake’s boat operations supervisor, Rick Fey. “Elk bugling, wolves howling, loons yodeling, and geese honking. It’s the complete wilderness experience.”
Return to Promontory Tip for your scheduled boat-shuttle pickup. Brace yourself for your return to humanity.
Permits: Backcountry camping is allowed only at designated campsites, which can be reserved in advance for $20. The reservation form is included in the backcountry trip planner, available from the backcountry office. The park starts accepting reservations April 1. Canoes and kayaks require a $5 use permit.
Contact: For the park’s backcountry office, call +1 307 242 3881. For boat rentals, contact Snake River Kayak & Canoe (800 529 2501, U.S. and Canada only; www.snakeriverkayak.com) or Rendezvous River Sports (800 733 2471, U.S. and Canada only; www.jhkayakschool.com).
For the full Yellowstone National Park guide, pick up the May 2002 Adventure.
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