Unearthly sculptures of water, minerals, microbes, and time:
The Bechler region is the wettest in Yellowstone, featuring multiple waterfalls and lots of rain. We got hailed on at Bechler Falls, saw a recently dead moose trailside near Sheep Falls, and watched lightning arch over the canyon at Cave Falls.
Over Labor Day weekend, we did a tour of Yellowstone National Park. While the view isn’t as spectacular as the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone is beautiful with fantastic thermal features. When we found geysers (the ones that shoot water) or fumaroles (the ones that shoot steam) without visible names, we generically called them Gushy or Steamy. Of course, we visited plenty of named features, including the well-known Old Faithful geyser. We also hiked around Yellowstone Canyon with multiple massive waterfalls and a mule deer that seemed to wonder why we dared use its trail. We kayaked Yellowstone Lake and saw several elk, including one bugling, and many thermal features along the shore.
Overall, our visit to Yellowstone was too short. The facilities in the park and the nearby town of West Yellowstone have the tacky “tourist fake western” theme, and we left those places as quickly as possible. Outdoors, we only saw the easily accessible tourist destinations. I suspect the best places are in the backcountry, and I look forward to returning.
A fine swimming hole with waters warmed by upstream hot springs. An easy 5 minute hike leads to the base of the falls. While you’ll likely share this popular spot with others, there’s plenty of room in the swimming hole below the falls. Logs downstream create sun-warmed pools, and spots where you can lay in the rushing waters.
There are few places for dispersed camping near Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park. This is one of the better ones.
From the junction between highway 89 and Flagg Ranch, drive towards Flagg Ranch and then turn northwest onto Grassy Lake Road. The road is open in the summer only.
Photo gallery shows the “ghost forest” created by the 1988 Yellowstone fire. The bare poles are the remainders of trees burned in the fire, with new trees growing up underneath. The other two photos are views of a Grassy Lake NPS campsite.
The first 8 miles of Grassy Lake Road are managed by Grand Teton National Park, and the remainder via the National Forest Service. The NPS-managed land allows free camping in 8 designated camping spots, which vary in size from 1 to 4 campsites. You can stay up to 14 days, and the sites have a picnic table, graded tent pad, fire pit, bear box, trash receptacle, and a pit toilet. Pretty fancy for free camping! NFS-managed land offers dispersed camping with services.
The road starts out as graded gravel, and sites 1 through 3 can be accessed by any car. The road gets rougher is it continues west, with ruts en route to sites 4 and 5, and deep gouges en route to sites 6 and beyond. Recommend a high clearance vehicle to go beyond site 5.