By Joss Hooren
In 1872, Yellowstone became the world’s first national park. Last year, over 4.25 million people visited Yellowstone National Park, with roughly 25% of these visiting in July. As part of a 3-month trip across North America, my husband, our 19-month-old son, Theo, and I were due to be at the park for the last week of July, so I was understandably concerned that the hordes of other tourists would ruin this bucket list experience, not to mention how this level of visitation would impact the wildlife.
While a lot of the ‘must see’ spots within the park were busy, we were advised by a backcountry ranger that most people don’t go off the beaten path, and many don’t even bother to get out of their vehicles, so it is still possible to come during the busy season and experience nature to the fullest. So, off we went, armed with bear spray, into Yellowstone’s backcountry hoping to escape the tourists.
Trout Lake in the Lamar Valley is a flat, family-friendly walk that takes you through a crunchy, dry forest (although I expect this is limited to the summer season!), perfect for stick-collecting and minibeast hunting, and down to the lake, where we saw only one other family enjoying an afternoon of fishing. Wild flowers surround the water, and you may see pronghorn, deer and bison passing through. The Lamar Valley is particularly famous for its two wolf packs, and of course bears may also be about, so keep your eyes peeled!
The trail from Pelican Creek to Yellowstone Lake is also easy terrain, picturesque, and relatively undiscovered. Look out for pelicans, eagles and osprey, as well as grizzly bears, and enjoy paddling, skimming stones and playing in the sand at the water’s edge.
The Clear and Ribbon Lake trail, passing through Artist Point and Point Sublime, was my favourite walk. This path takes you along the 366 meter-high Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, where you can appreciate the red, orange and pink stripes of the rock, contrasting with the bright blue and bubbling white of the Yellowstone River rapids below. Looking out into the canyon with the same view as the eagles is simply breath-taking and worth the extra hike beyond the point where most tourists stop, satisfied that they’ve taken a couple of decent photos. Theo admired this view from the safety of a sling! Of course, also in this area are the thunderous upper and lower falls, at 33 meters and 94 meters respectively.