Statistics: 6 miles roundtrip, ascent 350′

Bozeman is not far from either the western (West Yellowstone) or the northwestern (Gardiner) entrances to Yellowstone National Park. We first drove from Bozeman to the town of Gardiner, just north of the Gardiner entrance, where we were to stay for a couple of nights while touring the park. The next morning we drove through the grand, stand-alone entry gate on our way to Mammoth Hot Springs, 5 1/2 miles further into the park and a good starting point for any visit. Whether one visits Yellowstone for one or for several days, the trip is well worth it.

Park entrance

Our chosen trailhead for this three-hour walk was near the terraced hot springs adjacent to the village of Mammoth Hot Springs.

Trailhead near the hot springs

We were immediately put on alert by a sign warning of recent bear sightings.

Up the hill behind Mammoth Hot Springs, we had a good view of the Gardiner River Valley.

Looking east

Walking through sagebrush and stands of trees, we encountered the first beaver pond.

Beaver pond

We did not see any beavers, but a muskrat was clearly enjoying a swim.

Largest of the beaver ponds on the trail

A beaver dam was on the trail at the far end of the pond.

beaver dam

We did not see the beaver working this dam, but a chipmunk took notice of us.

Chipmunk

On the return portion of the loop, we detoured from the trail to climb up on top of Kite Hill above Mammoth Hot Springs, where we found an old civilian cemetery containing 14 graves outlined with rocks. Only one of the original gravestones remained, a double stone most likely for 2 hotel employees who died in 1883 and 1886, three years apart and different surnames. There might be an interesting story of the Old West here.

By the time we returned to the trailhead the day was warmer and so were we. To finish off the day we stopped in at the well-supplied souvenir store to get an ice cream and relax on the lawn.

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