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Monday, October 4, 2010

Seeing Osprey Falls in Yellowstone National Park

Part of the biker experience is the wind in the face, the sights, sounds, smells, and the weather.  I love getting out away from the crowds and experiencing the outdoors with as little human interference as possible.  

While riding in Yellowstone National Park (YNP) I could see a lot of geothermal features, wildlife, and natural features from the bike and I was able to park and take short walks to many of the famous sites such as Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic, the Upper and Lower Fall, and the Morning Glory Pool, but I wanted to see and experience YNP from less crowded vantage points.
 The pools have such vivid color.
One of the most famous sites in America - Old Faithful Geyser.
At nearly 370 in diameter the Grand Prismatic is the largest hot spring
in the USA and third in the world.
I wanted to get away from the crowds to see some of the more remote sites and two other men in our group were willing to do some hiking with me and my son.  The most enjoyable of the three hikes we took was also the longest and the most rewarding - the hike to Osprey Falls.

We left the West Yellowstone KOA early that morning grabbing breakfast at Ernie's Bakery (more about Ernie's later) and then road to the Old Bunsen Peak Road Trail trailhead - 5 miles south of Mammoth.

On the ride to the trailhead we saw two different coyotes (including one crossing the road near the trailhead), bison, elk, and a swan. Of course we saw steam from numerous geothermal features that are otherwise hidden behind trees and hills far away from the areas were visitors are allowed.  The ride was great - so little traffic and crisp cold air (approx 45 - 55 degrees - July 19, 2010).
Coyote near the trailhead early in the morning.
Once on the trail we were totally alone, just four of us.  It was quite peaceful and well worth the early ride.  We headed southeast along the Old Bunsen Peak Road past burnt forest, through grassland, and past Sheepeaters Cliffs.
Sheepeaters Cliffs were named after a sub-band of Shoshone Indians.
After passing the Sheepeaters Cliffs and Bunsen Peak we turned south on the Osprey Falls spur and entered the forest (still recovering from a fire years ago).  We could hear the roar of the falls and see Gardner River long before we could see Osprey Falls.  The last 1/4 mile we descended a series of 14 switchbacks and 800 feet of elevation down into the Sheepeaters Canyon.
My son heading down the series of switchbacks as the trail nears the falls.

Osprey Falls and the trail - we are nearly there.

Osprey Falls - 150 foot falls.
The vertical cliffs rise over 500 feet straight up.  Sheepeaters Canyon is one of the deepest in YNP according to the National Parks Service website. Our hike was 9.1 miles (round trip) with an elevation change of about 1100 with 800 of the change within 1/4-1/2 miles of the falls.

I had been working out prior to the trip and felt ready for the hike, but I will tell you the hike back up those 14 switchbacks was tough.   We were in a hurry to meet the rest of the group for a 1/2 day river rafting trip in Gardiner, Montana so we had to push it.

It was well worth it.  I highly recommend the hike or any of the hikes in YNP.  You will see so much more when you get away from the crowds.  Be prepared and take water & snacks as well as other hiking type supplies.  Make sure you have comfortable shoes and go take a hike! 


  1. Excellent read mate. It is very similar to what we have in central north Isaland, (Rotorua & Taupo) I can sit and watch the thermal stuff for hours. Are you still enjoying the new bike, now that you have had time to do a few miles?

  2. Geo-thermal features are amazing. The colors are so vivid. I look forward to returning to YNP.

    I am loving the FJR. I love the power and acceleration. I am going on a 3 night trip in two weeks to the mountains in Arkansas. I will let you know how it goes.

  3. Lovely pics. Thanks for sharing. It's always nice to revisit the area (at least by virtual means). I have been to Yellowstone, and the places in on the Northern Island of Kiwi-Land which Roger (Raftnn) is mentioning. Both locations have their special charm, but Yellowstone is the super-sized kind...

  4. Wonderful, rugged scenery. What an amazing place. I haven't been to Yellowstone and must make it there some day. Your hike looks like a must-do.

  5. It's nice you were able to hike, I didn't have time, I went down through both parks to Jackson Hole and then came up the next day, it will be in my blog soon ;-)
    Bluekat, you haven't been to Yellowstone? you have to take the Ninja for a visit ;-)

  6. Would love to go there some time. Does anyone remember Laugh-in? They did a skit where people dressed like Rangers snuk a big valve in at Old Faithful. When it stopped they were caught turning the valve. It was funny.