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Beaver Ponds

Yellowstone National Park

July 25th, 2011

5.6 miles
850 vertical feet
Total Time: 4:46

Starting elevation
6335 feet
Max elevation
6812 feet

Rating: 7/10

Directions: From West Yellowstone, drive east to enter the park. Just past the Madison Campground, turn left toward Norris. At the next intersection, head straight toward Mammoth Hot Springs. Just as you enter the developed area, turn left into the parking lot, just before the public bathrooms. There is also parking in nearby lots, though the whole area is generally crowded.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

The parking lot was nearly full when we arrived around 11am, but we managed to get a spot near the trailhead. There's also another lot closer to Liberty Cap, a hot spring cone. While we walked on the dirt trail, a lot of other people were off to the boardwalks on the left, checking out Liberty Cap and other thermal features of the area.

People on the boardwalks

To our left just beyond the boardwalks was a wall of oranges and whites. Closer at hand to our left was a similar landscape, with water trickling over a wall of white and orange, into a little stream near our feet. We continued up the trail, leaving the crowds behind, crossed a footbridge, and continued up the trail.

Water flows down this sculpted rock

Trail next to the little stream

Looking back; Liberty Cap barely visible near the middle left

Flower next to the trail

Formations at the end of the boardwalk

First bridge crossing

The trail starts to switchback uphill, with a few patches of shade. We shortly passed the Howard Eaton Trail, staying right to stay on the Beaver Ponds Trail. About 3/4 of a mile into the hike, we reached another intersection, with the Sepulcher Mountain Trail heading left; we continued on the Beaver Ponds Trail to the right.

Soon we had some nice views of the valley below. At this point the trail veers north and starts a very gradual descent, past some nice displays of wildflowers. (lupine, paintbrush, and others). The only thing marring the experience here was the presence of some power lines running next to the trail above us, something I wouldn't expect to see in a national park. That and the partially overgrown dirt road leading up to some sort of transmission tower. Still, at times we had nice views of the valley to our right; there's a very short spur trail to the right for some better views.

Wildflowers next to the trail

View looking east toward the valley
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The book I had didn't actually mention how far it was to the Beaver Ponds, only the total distance of the loop hike. So when I saw someone coming in the opposite direction, I asked how far it was. They said it was another 2 miles, which didn't seem possible to me since we'd already gone almost 2 miles and the hike was supposed to be only a 5 mile loop.

Looking back at more wildflowers

A variety of colorful wildflowers

Hiking past more wildflowers

In any case, we kept going, back into the forest, descending more steeply now. After another mile, we reached the first pond, surrounded by cat tails, with a duck or two in sight. We knew this wasn't the largest pond, though, so we kept going. We passed a smaller pond and then another one filled with algae before reaching the largest Beaver Ponds, about 1.5 miles after I'd asked the other hiker where it was.

First pond

Another small pond

First look at the largest Beaver Ponds

We found a shady spot on a steep hill high above the water to have lunch. There aren't really many good choices for lunch spots here. We didn't see any beavers (or other large wildlife) on this hike. While we had seen a fair number of hikers earlier, we only saw about 4 people pass us the whole time we were having our one hour lunch break.

The Beaver Ponds were pretty but unspectacular. After lunch, we continued past them, crossing over a footbridge and starting one final short climb. From here, we now traveled mostly south, out in the open, with views of the valley to our left. It is similar to the trail we'd been on earlier heading north, except there were no wildflowers and hardly any shade on this part of the trail. The only thing holding us back from breezing through this section was the stiff afternoon headwind blowing in our faces.

Looking back at the ponds

View on the way back

Soon enough, though, we could see the thermal features near our car ahead of us. Then, suddenly, it was as if we'd dropped into another world: spread out before us were green manicured lawns, more than a dozen buildings, cars parked everywhere, and people milling about.

Heading back into a strange world

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