Monday, July 14, 2008

Hyalite Canyon

Our plan was to leave Bozeman on Monday, July 7, to go to Yellowstone, but we’d heard that there was some great hiking in the Hyalite Canyon and we loved our campsite, so we decided to stay another day. The Hyalite Creek Trail would take us past a couple of waterfalls, up to Hyalite Lake, and, snow permitting, to the top of Hyalite Peak.

Just a mile into the hike, we arrived at Grotto Falls. It was a big, wide waterfall, and we took each other’s pictures.

Another mile or so up the creek was Arch Falls. We took a snack break there but for some reason didn’t take any pictures. It was a neat waterfall that actually went through a rock arch.

We thought this was the end of the waterfalls – at least, our (admittedly rough) map didn’t show any more before Hyalite Lake. But the waterfalls kept coming – we saw four or five more major falls as we continued hiking up.

We also got some pretty views of the opposite mountainside.

As we hiked up, we hit more and more snow until we were just following other hikers’ boot prints, and hoping that they had chosen the right path. Eventually, even the boot prints petered out, and we were left to find our own route through terrain that was alternating snow and wet marshy land. We turned on the GPS, which indicated that the lake was due south of us, so we hiked straight towards it. Well, that route led us straight to a super-steep snow-covered slope, which we carefully ascended. Fortunately, it was early afternoon by this point, so the sun had turned the surface snow to slush, which afforded decent traction.

After huffing and puffing our way up, we finally made it to the top and had a short walk into the lake basin. The lake was still mostly frozen and snow-covered, but the basin was quite pretty.

Given all the snow, it was pretty clear that we weren’t going to make it to the top of Hyalite Peak – we didn’t even know where the trail was or which peak was Hyalite. So we started down. We decided that the steep route we had taken up probably wasn’t the trail, so we decided to try following the creek down. Bad idea! We very quickly hit yet another waterfall – a cliff that was passable for the creek but not for us. From the cliff, we could look down and see the creek flowing below the snow.

We retraced our steps from the cliff and swung way to the east, and this turned out to be the right route – no cliffs, and no steep slopes. We had fun sliding down one snowy slope on our butts and hiked/slid the rest of the way down until we got out of the snow.

The rest of the hike was uneventful – just a repeat of one amazing waterfall after another. After we drove out of the parking lot, we passed Hyalite Reservoir, which supplies Bozeman’s water and is quite pretty itself.

After the 11-mile round-trip hike to Hyalite Lake, we hadn’t quite had enough, so we drove to the trailhead for Palisade Falls, just a short half-mile hike to another gorgeous waterfall – longer and narrower than some we’d seen along Hyalite Creek.

On our way down, we ran into a group of people who were talking about a mouse on the side of the trail. We pointed out that it was actually a pika, and boy, was he cute!

Finally, we headed back to our campsite to cook dinner and enjoy our view of Hyalite Creek for a third night.

Tomorrow, Yellowstone!


Gus said...

Wonderful trip and great pics too!

Gus said...

Wonderful trip and great pics too!

Gus said...

Wonderful trip and great pics too!

Gus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I am doing research for my university paper, thanks for your brilliant points, now I am acting on a sudden impulse.

- Laura