Mary Mountain Trail and Violet Hot Springs - August 11, 2019

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Scatman
Posts: 16
Joined: Wed Oct 18, 2017 1:11 pm

Mary Mountain Trail and Violet Hot Springs - August 11, 2019

Post by Scatman »

A day after our canoe trip on Yellowstone Lake, we completed a day hike along the Mary Mountain Trail, and took a short side trip to check out the Violet Hot Springs thermal area.

My wife had picked us up at the end of our canoe trip at Sedge Bay on the 10th and we returned to the Grant Village Campground for the night where we met two of our friends who were going to hike the trail with us. This would be my third time completing the Mary Mountain Trail in the last 30 years, and it would be my sixth time to Mary Lake (I approached the lake three other times along the Trout Creek stagecoach road), making Mary Lake my most visited backcountry lake in Yellowstone. Other than me, all the others had never done the Mary Mountain Trail before. With our route going to Violet Hot Springs, it put the total distance of our hike at 21.1 miles.

We started around 7:00 am on the Hayden Valley side, and at the beginning it was still pretty chilly, but once the sun rose a bit further in the sky it became a perfect day for the hike. Along our way, we ran into numerous bull Bison, and on the western end of Hayden Valley, we spotted a Grizzly Bear grazing along a hillside. We watched it for a couple of minutes before it got wind of us and headed up and over the hill.

We stopped at the Mary Lake Patrol Cabin and had a nice lunch before heading west and down into the meadows along Nez Perce Creek, and then on to Lower Geyser Basin and trail's end. The hike took us a bit over eleven hours to complete and I was pretty worn out by the end.

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Map of the eastern portion of our hike

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The Mary Mountain Trail signpost at the north end of Hayden Valley

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Of course, I'm bringing up the rear :D

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Looking south from the trail towards Crater Hills and Sulphur Springs

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Looking west across Hayden Valley

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The last standing trail marker. Bison tend to knock these over over time

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You shall not pass! :D A Bison on the trail

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Alum Creek, gently flowing through Hayden Valley

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Small cascades on Alum Creek

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Violet Creek

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Approaching Violet Hot Springs

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Mud pot in the Violet Hot Springs group

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Violet Hot Springs thermal area

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Violet Hot Springs thermal area

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Sheila and Katie making their way back to the Mary Mountain Trail

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More small cascades on tributary of Alum Creek

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Grizzly Bear grazing on a hillside at the western end of Hayden Valley

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Giving us a look as it makes its way up and over the hillside

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Making our way towards the Buffalo Highway - looking back east across Hayden Valley with Mount Washburn in the far distance. Not much of a trail at this point

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Looking back east across Hayden Valley from the west end of the valley

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Wolf track along the trail - we encountered wolf track along almost the entire length of the trail

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Hiking along the Buffalo Highway towards Mary Lake

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Mary Mountain Patrol Cabin

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Mary Lake

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Lunch at the cabin

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Visitor at the cabin

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Map of the western half of the trail

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Old man heading down Mary Mountain :D

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I believe we have seen this young gentleman before

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Breaking out into the meadows along Nez Perce Creek

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The fate of the Cowan party

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Meadows along Nez Perce Creek

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Crossing Magpie Creek

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Nez Perce Creek

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Old footbridge across Nez Perce Creek

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Nez Perce Creek

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Morning Mist Springs

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Happy hikers at trail's end.



tlveik
Posts: 33
Joined: Mon Feb 04, 2019 3:59 pm

Re: Mary Mountain Trail and Violet Hot Springs - August 11, 2019

Post by tlveik »

Enjoyed the report and pictures, thanks.



RikWriter
Posts: 275
Joined: Tue Jul 25, 2017 8:36 pm

Re: Mary Mountain Trail and Violet Hot Springs - August 11, 2019

Post by RikWriter »

Awesome! I tried to hike it once but had to turn back after a couple miles because there was too much mud from the snow melt.



Dorothy
Posts: 128
Joined: Sat Jul 29, 2017 7:45 pm

Re: Mary Mountain Trail and Violet Hot Springs - August 11, 2019

Post by Dorothy »

Great report and beautiful photos! Thanks so much for sharing. AND I'm impressed that you made the hike -- it would be much more than I could do. Very impressive.



Scatman
Posts: 16
Joined: Wed Oct 18, 2017 1:11 pm

Re: Mary Mountain Trail and Violet Hot Springs - August 11, 2019

Post by Scatman »

RikWriter wrote:
Wed Feb 05, 2020 7:51 pm
Awesome! I tried to hike it once but had to turn back after a couple miles because there was too much mud from the snow melt.
We ran into a couple of areas that were wet and muddy, even in August, heading through Hayden Valley. We tried to work our way around them as best we could, but it was pretty much impossible to keep our feet dry trying to negotiate through/around them.



Scatman
Posts: 16
Joined: Wed Oct 18, 2017 1:11 pm

Re: Mary Mountain Trail and Violet Hot Springs - August 11, 2019

Post by Scatman »

Dorothy wrote:
Wed Feb 05, 2020 10:54 pm
Great report and beautiful photos! Thanks so much for sharing. AND I'm impressed that you made the hike -- it would be much more than I could do. Very impressive.
Thanks Dorothy.



billandkaren
Posts: 129
Joined: Fri Aug 04, 2017 8:50 pm

Re: Mary Mountain Trail and Violet Hot Springs - August 11, 2019

Post by billandkaren »

Great report! Thanks for sharing. We have thought about trying to do this hike, but have not made the commitment to do the distance. We have only done about 13 miles max in a day and also have a bit of a concern over grizzlies in that area. Glad you got to see one from a distance. Thanks for taking us along.

How did you navigate the "trail" in those places where it seemed to disappear?



Scatman
Posts: 16
Joined: Wed Oct 18, 2017 1:11 pm

Re: Mary Mountain Trail and Violet Hot Springs - August 11, 2019

Post by Scatman »

billandkaren wrote:
Sat Feb 08, 2020 1:22 am
Great report! Thanks for sharing. We have thought about trying to do this hike, but have not made the commitment to do the distance. We have only done about 13 miles max in a day and also have a bit of a concern over grizzlies in that area. Glad you got to see one from a distance. Thanks for taking us along.

How did you navigate the "trail" in those places where it seemed to disappear?
billandkaren - Were your 13 miles in Yellowstone? The Mary Mountain Trail is really not that difficult to complete. If you don't take the side trip to Violet Springs, it is approximately 20 miles. Other than some hills at the west end of Hayden Valley and a nice drop down to the meadows along Nez Perce Creek from Mary Lake, the trail is essentially flat. Mary Lake is the halfway point, and if you rest up a bit at the patrol cabin, I wouldn't think that you would have any trouble completing it.

As far as grizzlies go, all the Grizzly Bears that I have seen over the years in Hayden Valley, have been off in the distance. With the wide open spaces of the valley, and if you remain alert, you should be able to spot any bear at a safe distance. The Bison have always been more problematic in the valley for me than the bears.

As far as the trail is concerned, there are two spots along the way where the trail disappears. The first is after you cross the tributary of Alum Creek, at this point you will be heading southwest and up a little draw and then over some hills (where we saw the Grizzly). Once on top of the hills, you will be very close to the western end of the valley, and if you continue to head southwest, you will see out in front of you a large orange diamond shaped trail marker on a downed log. Once you reach that trail marker, there will be another out in front of you (southwest still). When you reach the second marker, you descend down into a gully and back up the other side and the trail should be visible again. If you are unsure at this point, you should be able to make out the large trail marker in the distance, at the entrance to the Buffalo Highway. The second time the trail disappears is after coming off Mary Mountain and into the meadows along Nez Perce Creek. If you stay north of the meadows, just inside the tree line, you will run into the trail and it is easy to follow from that point until trail's end.



billandkaren
Posts: 129
Joined: Fri Aug 04, 2017 8:50 pm

Re: Mary Mountain Trail and Violet Hot Springs - August 11, 2019

Post by billandkaren »

Thanks, Scatman. We did 13 miles to Sheep Lake and back near the Continental Divide Trail in the National Forest (Custer Gallatin I believe). So it was a fairly strenuous hike. I believe we could do the Mary Mountain Trail, but I might have to convince Karen :) .

Thanks for the tips on the following the trail. That helps me feel a little more confident. I carry a compass but no GPS. I'll post when (if) we do the hike.



Scatman
Posts: 16
Joined: Wed Oct 18, 2017 1:11 pm

Re: Mary Mountain Trail and Violet Hot Springs - August 11, 2019

Post by Scatman »

billandkaren wrote:
Fri Feb 28, 2020 8:31 pm
Thanks, Scatman. We did 13 miles to Sheep Lake and back near the Continental Divide Trail in the National Forest (Custer Gallatin I believe). So it was a fairly strenuous hike. I believe we could do the Mary Mountain Trail, but I might have to convince Karen :) .

Thanks for the tips on the following the trail. That helps me feel a little more confident. I carry a compass but no GPS. I'll post when (if) we do the hike.
If you decide to do the hike, here are the trail markers you want to look for on the west end of Hayden Valley while hiking southwest.

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Trail marker as you enter the Buffalo Highway.



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