On June 21, the day we were calling our “rest day”, after we visited the Virginia Cascade, we went back to our Tower Fall Campground to relax.
But we quickly became bored.
We’d spent nearly a week camping at the Tower Fall Campground, but somehow we’d never managed to visit Tower Fall.
The Tower Fall area is actually a pretty busy area. In addition to the campground, there is also a General Store, not to mention that the Tower Fall (a waterfall) is the main attraction. The parking lot for the waterfall is shared with that for the General Store, so it often looks like this.
One does not generally go into the outdoors to experience traffic jams. (The General Store is mostly hidden, way in the back, by the vehicles.)
It is still a very interesting area. Here’s a photo taken on the road leading out of the campground.
The low area in the front is Antelope Creek, and the low area in the distance is the Yellowstone River, near where the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone starts to open up. In the far distance is the peak of Specimen Ridge, where we had climbed to see the Petrified Forest.
Here’s a topographic map of the area.
[Click for more readable version.]
You might recognize the red trail at the top; it’s what we took on our first day at Yellowstone. This time we were hiking on the other side of the river. Our path is documented by the orange and purple markings (which were, to a large extent, not official trails).
Although not marked on the map, we hiked directly from our campsite (marked in blue). It would have been silly to drive that short distance, and even sillier to try to park in the mess.
I actually don’t have any pictures of Tower Fall. The trail used to go past a high-up observation point, and then headed down to the bottom of the falls. However, that lower portion of the trail was closed. It had washed away. We did see the falls at the observation point, but didn’t manage to take any pictures.
That wasn’t our full goal, though. The trail books I had looked at mentioned that there was another trail that branched off the main trail to the bottom of the falls. That branch trail was supposed to take you down to the Yellowstone River and we hoped to take that trail . . . if we could get to it.
Here’s my son as I am looking up the Yellowstone River.
In the foreground, coming from the right, is Antelope Creek.
The view is typical all along the Yellowstone River (as we saw when we went down to Sevenmile Hole): hot springs (or even minor leaks) that have denuded areas of vegetation.
Of course there is always wildlife. We surprised an elk.
There was a (fairly faint) trail that continued upstream. Here’s a look back from near a place called “Bannock Ford”.
This is where the Bannock People, Northern Paiute, would cross the Yellowstone River. We looked for a place that looked crossable, but never found such a place, at least not something that could be crossed at that time on foot. The Bannock, though, would have crossed on horseback, so could cross a greater depth.
After a while we turned back. Here’s what I think is an interesting shot of me opposite one of the areas shaped by the hot springs. You can see the mineralized colors.
Yes, I did the whole hike barefoot.
On the return trip, we deliberately headed further, to get to where Tower Creek joined the Yellowstone. Here’s the view there.
That’s Tower Creek coming in from the left, and the high point in the distance is part of Specimen Ridge.
All along the way we kept crossing small hot springs. Here you can see a spot that was well-marked with sulphur.
I was careful with all the little springs along the way. It was easy just to hold my bare foot above the water to get an impression of how hot it was. (There were all fairly cool, but still noticeably warm.)
Finally, here’s a shot looking down the Yellowstone River as we ascended back up towards the parking lot.
This wasn’t a particularly long hike, but it was still one of those fun exploratory hikes that let us see parts of the park that the regular tourists (you know, the ones clogging the parking lot) just never got to.