Artist Paint Pots

Artist Paint Pots

Elevation Change for Artist Paint Pots

Elevation change for Artist Paint Pots
Elevation profile and route courtesy of the HAZ Tracks App

Distance: 1.1 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Best time of year: Spring, Summer, Fall

Artist Paint Pots is an appropriately named collection of mud pots that have some incredibly unique coloring and actually do resemble pots of paint. It’s one of the fantastic displays of mudpots in the park, where the water is so acidic it gradually eats away the ground around it. Continue reading “Artist Paint Pots”

West Thumb Geyser Basin

Black Pool and Moon

Elevation Change for the West Thumb Geyser Basin

Elevation change for West Thumb Geyser Basin
Elevation profile and route courtesy of the Route Scout App

Distance: 0.8 miles (loop)
Difficulty: Easy
Best time of year: Year-round

The West Thumb Geyser Basin is an easy walk around some very colorful hot springs set against the dramatic backdrop of Yellowstone Lake. If you’re coming in from the South Entrance, it’s a great way to acquaint yourself with some of the features that you’ll be seeing much more of. Continue reading “West Thumb Geyser Basin”

Snow King Mountain

Balsamroot Wildflowers on Snow King

Distance: 2 miles (one way)
Difficulty: Strenuous
Best time of year: Year-round

Affectionately referred to as, The Town Hill, Snow King receives a lot of local traffic thanks to its steep ascent, great views, and close proximity to town. In the winter, it also becomes a beloved ski resort where most of the summit trail is still open for skinning, making it a year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Walk up the hill toward the ski lifts and you’ll see the trail heading into the trees after going under each lift. The trail starts off on a steep incline up the hill and doesn’t give you much of a rest any time soon; it gains over 1,500 feet during its two mile trek up to the top. If you’re not used to the elevation, try not to be intimidated by the people that run up, or even unicycle up.

The first switchback is deep in the trees low on the hill and winds back around on its way up the mountain. Once through the trees, it pops out into a large ski area, skimming the treeline for a little while, then climbing steadily up to another switchback across the open area. Through here it will also intersect with a couple of bike trails as well.

After another switchback, a steady ascent continues as you approach the Cougar Lift, passing just under the top of it. The steep and steady ascent persists up the hill, heading up one switchback after another in the trees, until finally emerging at the last switchback in an open clearing with a great view over Jackson, the National Elk Refuge, and most of the Jackson Hole valley.

The last leg remains on its steady upward trajectory, ultimately reaching the saddle. Once at the saddle, it’s an easy climb up to the top of the Summit Lift and the Panorama House, offering fantastic views to the north and west.

Tip: If you want to experience the trail without the climb, consider taking the Summit Lift up to the top, then walking down.

Female Hiker on Trail

Have a little more time on your hands? Follow the trail west from the Panorama House and head over to Josie’s Ridge, a popular alternative to Snow King with some tremendous views of its own. The connecting trail is rarely used so in addition to sharing the trail with a limited number of people, you’ll also be able to get away from the road noise of Jackson.

Getting there: From Town Square in Jackson, Wyoming, drive (or walk) south on Cache Street for .5 miles. There will be a baseball diamond past a 4-way stop sign on the left with a parking area just beyond the field that you can pull into and park. The trail begins just up the hill after crossing below both ski lifts. In winter, make a left at the stop sign on to Snow King Avenue and turn right at the next parking area.

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Mud Volcano

Bison Sleeping at Mud Volcano

Elevation Change for Mud Volcano

Elevation change for Mud Volcano
Elevation profile and route courtesy of the HAZ Tracks App

Distance: .8 miles (loop)
Difficulty: Easy
Best time of year: Year-round

The Mud Volcano area is a fantastic collection of mudpots, rich with odd pools and Yellowstone’s signature sulphur smells.

To get the most elevation change out of the way first, head to the south end of the parking area to start the trail there. Along the way, you’ll pass the Sizzling Basin, a massive mudpot bubbling up gasses and acidic water at its opposite end.

The trail begins a gradual climb up to Churning Cauldron, another large mudpot. Up the trail a bit farther is the Black Dragon’s Cauldron and Sour Lake. Both have been growing, and so in the summer of 2015, the park began work on completely redoing the boardwalks there. Each are massive mudpot lakes that need to be seen to be believed.

Pass through a quiet wooded area and continue down to the original Mud Volcano. Early explorers found this mudpot with a cone that would shoot mud up into the air. The cone has since been eroded away, and now the Mud Volcano continues to gradually eat away the ground around it.

Beyond the Mud Volcano is the Dragon’s Mouth Spring, a large cave where water bounces back and forth from one end of the cave to the other, producing an intense echoing sound resembling the roar of a dragon. Water used to shoot out of the cave as well, but it has since calmed down.

Heading down the boardwalk will take you back to the parking area.

Getting there: Head right onto the main highway northbound for just shy of six miles. The entrance to the Mud Volcano area will be on the left just before Sulphur Cauldron.

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