Welcome to Lamar Valley in Yellowstone, home to one of my favourite areas in this vast park.
Something about the valley brings about a childlike happiness in me. With the green, gently rolling hills and the expansive backdrops, I just feel like frolicking around in the sagebrush and rolling down the hills. Until I accidentally roll on some bison droppings…
As I love this area so much, I always look forward to starting my summer off in Yellowstone by saying hello to my old friend, Lamar Valley, and hiking to the top of its ridges.
Specimen Ridge Hike, Lamar Valley:
At a starting elevation of 8864 feet (ending @ 9600 feet), it’s very surprising if you happen to see anyone else on the trail (aside from a herd of pronghorn).
As the name states, it is one of the ridges of Amethyst Mountain, and, as we discovered, it is a trail with many, many paths. Seriously. I challenge you to tell the difference between the bison trails and the actual hike.
And like the hike, the trailhead is also open to interpretation. You can begin at the Yellowstone Picnic Area, just past the Yellowstone River bridge, or you can begin in an area known as Little America. You can even start the hike next to the Lamar River Bridge or the confluence of the Lamar and Soda Butte drainages.
And, as the name also states, you may see some fine specimen on this trail, including: pronghorn, grizzly bear, elk, bison and perhaps even moose if you are lucky. And if you know where to look, you’ll also find petrified trees and stumps.
Which path to take? Umm, we usually decide uphill is the way to go – the steeper, the better.
What Simon and I find amazing about this hike, aside from the lack of people on the trail, is the glimpse we get of Yellowstone ‘behind the scenes’.
We can see (if you’re heading east), to our right, the Tower Falls area – a place where we have spent countless hours watching two sets of black bears with cubs. We had no idea how enormous the space is behind the ridge. Imagine all the wildlife we could spot if we could see into this area from the road (its a no hiking zone)!! It just blew my mind.
To our left, we could see the entrance to Lamar Valley, and again, our mouths dropped at the areas we would never have been able to see from the road.
Difficulty? I would say moderate. It’s a high elevation hike, has little shade and enjoys many steep hills. Make sure you have good hiking boots, or you might end up downhill skiing as I did on the way back down during one trek (before Simon’s parents kindly bought me my first decent pair of hiking boots for my Birthday a few years ago).