Yellowstone National Park (part VII) – The Northern Section

Well, we’re here. The final post in my Yellowstone National Park saga. Today I’m going to focus on the only remaining section of the park – the northernmost portion. I concluded my previous post at Tower-Roosevelt Junction. From here, the park road travels west to Mammoth Hot Springs and east to the northeast park entrance and Cooke City, Montana.

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Map source: http://www.nps.gov/yell

Heading west between Tower and Mammoth, there are a couple small lakes along the side of the road, a one-way drive up and over the Blacktail Deer Plateau, and a short drive to a petrified tree that has, unfortunately, been vandalized over the years. The Lava Creek picnic area has always been one of our favorites. And there are three short trails: a 100-yard walk to the viewpoint for Undine Falls, a 0.8-mile round trip hike to Wraith Falls, and the “Forces of the Northern Range” self-guided loop explaining the cycle of growth and forest fires in the park. In particular, it discusses the fires of 1988, in which approximately 35% of the park burned.

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One summer, a pair of eagles made their nest high in a tree along this section of road. We were able to stop and take a look through a spotting scope – Yellowstone National Park, WY
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View from the road between Mammoth and Tower – Yellowstone National Park, WY
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View from the road between Mammoth and Tower – Yellowstone National Park, WY

For some reason, I don’t have many summertime photos of this area. I guess we don’t really stop here all that often. For a glimpse of these features in the winter, head on over to my Winter in Yellowstone posts (here and here) for some snowy photos.

Back at Tower Junction, the road to the east travels through the Lamar Valley. The valley is cut by the Lamar River and is best known for its wildlife. Herds of elk and bison can be seen here, and over the years I’ve also seen bears, coyotes, foxes, and bighorn sheep in the Lamar Valley. This is also where most of the wolves reside. They’re difficult to spot, as they tend to keep their distance from the road. But there are almost always individuals with spotting scopes at various pullouts, and they’re usually nice enough to let you take a look. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of some tiny moving gray spots way off in the distance!

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Lamar River – Yellowstone National Park, WY
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Springtime in the Lamar Valley – Yellowstone National Park, WY
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A coyote trots down the road in front of our car – Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, WY
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Soda Butte – Yellowstone National Park, WY
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Soda Butte Creek and the Absaroka Mountains – Yellowstone National Park, WY

From the Lamar Valley, the road passes a campground and a couple picnic areas on its way out of the park through the northeast entrance. Beyond the northeast entrance is the tiny town of Cooke City, MT. Beyond that is the Beartooth Plateau – a plateau high in the Absaroka-Beartooth Mountain Range that’s dotted with lakes and covered in wildflowers. The scenery incredible and from the high point of the highway – located at almost 11,000 feet – the views are some of the best I’ve ever seen. The Beartooth Plateau will be the topic of an upcoming post.

Well, that concludes my Yellowstone saga. I hope that I’ve provided some insight and helpful information. And I hope that I’ve inspired you to visit Yellowstone – or to plan a return visit – sometime soon.

If you are planning a visit, I’m happy to answer questions and provide any information. Because I’ve spent so much time there, Yellowstone is somewhat of a second home for me. I love the park and I find myself feeling very protective of the park. But I’m also very much of the opinion that Yellowstone is a place that everyone should have a chance to visit at least once in their lifetime.

Hopefully I’ll see you there!

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