Statistics: 6 miles roundtrip, ascent 350′

Bozeman is not far from two Montana entrances to Yellowstone National Park: the West entrance near the community of West Yellowstone or the North entrance below the town of Gardiner. We found a place to stay for two nights in Gardiner, so we drove I-90 to Highway 89 and down to Gardiner and crashed for the night. The next morning we drove through the North entrance’s 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

Yellowstone has many opportunities for various walks, you can design your own combination of paths – as long as you stay on the designated trails. 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.

We had a good view of the Gardiner River Valley after climbing the hill behind Mammoth Hot Springs.

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.


On the return portion of the loop, we detoured from the trail to climb up to the 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 – Mary and Sarry – 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 in Mammoth Hot Springs to get an ice cream and relax on the lawn.

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