Because the North Entrance to Yellowstone is the only vehicle accessible entrance to the park during winter, and because we soon will be taking a trip to the northern parts of the park (will write about that adventure when it is in the books) I thought I would share some unique and interesting things to do next time you visit Mammoth Hot Springs
1.Visit Fort Yellowstone Cemetery: Fort Yellowstone Army Cemetery is the burial place of U.S. Army soldiers and members of their families (or civilian employees of the U.S. Army and their families) who primarily served in Fort Yellowstone (originally named Camp Sheridan), established August 17, 1886 within the park on Beaver Creek near Mammoth Hot Springs. The fort’s purpose was to provide protection to the park, enforce gaming laws, and guard the area from vandals and commercial efforts that might negatively affect the many wonders of the Park. The fort was abandoned in 1918, but the cemetery, while overgrown with vegetation and not that well-kept, is located just northeast and on the other side of the road from the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces and adjacent to the horse stables. It is surrounded by a green fence and worth taking the time to take a look at some of the remaining markers identifying those who played an early role in the preservation of Yellowstone National Park. (Reference: Death in Yellowstone, Lee H. Whittlesey, The Court Wayne Press, Boulder C), 1995)
2.Visit Kite Hill Cemetery: Kate Hill Cemetery was a civilian cemetery (named because early park employees and families would hike the hill to fly kites) for early park workers, has mostly succumb to the ravishes of time, but offers a unique setting from which to take a peek at some mysterious graves as it is located atop a hill behind the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. It has 14 graves with only one monument still standing. That monument identifies that Mary J. Foster, 33, was buried June 10, 1883. Foster was from Madison County, North Carolina and was an employee of hotel. A Sarry E. Bolding is also identified on the headstone although she died 4 years after Foster. Records indicate that others buried in the cemetery include two people who committed suicide, one who was murdered, and another who died in an avalanche. (Reference: Death in Yellowstone, Lee H. Whittlesey, The Court Wayne Press, Boulder C), 1995)
3.Bighorn Sheep Management Area: As you drive the Gardner Canyon from Mammoth Hot Springs to the North Entrance in Gardiner, MT you pass through an area designated for bighorn sheep management. Often times you can spot their silhouettes atop the cliffs on the eastern side of the canyon. If spotted, their silhouetted bodies provide a unique and inspiring glimpse into the rugged life of these creatures and terrain they call home. Keep your eyes alert for these animals on both sides of the road and have a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope to get an up close view of this powerfully built resident of the park.
4.Drive the Old Gardiner Road Trail: This unadvertised, 5-mile dirt road actually follows the historic stagecoach route (est. in the 1880’s) that early visitors to the park traveled from Gardiner, MT to Mammoth Hot Springs. Leaving the park, the road starts directly behind the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and terminates very near the North Entrance Gate. The unique experience offered by taking this route out of the park is a bird’s eye view of Mammoth, a far reaching and mountain back dropped view of Gardiner, and a chance to travel a historic route used by most early visitors to the park and rarely traveled by today’s park visitors.
5.Enjoy Boiling River Trail and Hot Springs: From the trail head located between Mammoth Hot Springs and the North Entrance Gate where the road crosses the Gardner River, a short and level ½ mile upstream walk along the Gardner River brings you to the Boiling River hot spring and a chance to soak in the warm waters created by the mixing of the very hot water from the hot springs and the cold water of Gardner River. Bathrooms near the trailhead can be used for changing as a swimming suit is required to soak. Until the 1980’s the hot spring was relatively unknown except by locals, and evening “hot potting” parties were common and often included alcoholic beverages and nudity. When the Boiling River Trail Project was created, new rules were instituted that prohibited nudity, alcohol, and nighttime swimming. This is one of the very few legal swimming areas in Yellowstone and can provide an enjoyable soak in hydrothermal waters. https://hikingproject.com/trail/7008577/boiling-river-trail
6.Visit the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center: Opened in 2005, the Heritage and Research Center, located at 20 Old Yellowstone Trail, outside the park entrance in Gardiner, is the central housing of Yellowstone collections previously housed in various locations within the park. It is the absolute central hub for information on Yellowstone including cultural and natural history, archeology, geology, science, wildlife, etc. It contains Yellowstone’s Museum collection and a must visit for those truly interested in learning more about Yellowstone and the staff is friendly and anxious to help. Call for information at 307-344-2662 or visit https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/historyculture/collections.htm.
7.Visit the Albright Visitor Center: Learn more about the history and wildlife of Yellowstone, let the kids feel animal hides, antlers, and horns, compare their stature to that of bison, and become Junior Rangers, view new exhibits of natural and cultural treasures, browse the bookstore, get help planning your Yellowstone adventures including little tidbits from those working in the center that can help make your overall stay in Yellowstone more enjoyable, and experience park ranger delivered talks and tours.
8.Walk or Drive Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces: These hydrothermal hot springs, from which the area derives its name, and their created terraces reflect the living and changing architecture of this area. The site provides for an Upper Terrace Drive in your vehicle or a walk along several boardwalks (covering 1.75 miles with over 300 feet of change in elevation). Access to the boardwalks can be obtained from the parking area off Upper Terrace Drive or the Lower Terraces loop starting from parking areas alongside Liberty Cap.
9.Visit Roosevelt Arch: The iconic Roosevelt Arch is the grand manmade landmark and North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The arch was completed August 1903, but was dedicated April 24 of that same year, by President Roosevelt, at the invite of local Masons and residents. President Roosevelt was at the time simply vacationing in the park and had no plans to dedicate the arch and nor was he anticipating that it would be named after him. Area renovations have made taking your picture in front of the arch more accessible and serves as one of the most prominent photo taking locations for folks to capture on film their entrance to the park. If the doors to the bases of the arch are open and accessible, take a look inside the hollow arch.