MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS – ROTTEN EGGS AND HORNY ELKS

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Mammoth Village, the first village you can visit if you enter Yellowstone NP from the north entrance, is a very interesting destination to explore. From very smelly hot springs and territorial bull elks to amazing views from the roads and mountaintops, it has it all!

It was the first place I was living in when I was in Yellowstone for the first time, and ever since, it really left a significant mark on me. It is stunning. Those first 2 days kept me coming back to experience the area every so often. The village is on the smaller size, much smaller than Old Faithful, for example. It does, however, have the court, hotel, restaurant, general and souvenir shop for your food, gifts and trinkets.

You might be wondering, what’s about the rotten eggs and horny elks? Well, except for the funny and completely accurate description of the Mammoth Hot Spring village, nothing. Rotten eggs is just the first thing you smell when you get there. The hidrogen sulfide (H2S) from the thermal features in the area gives the village the very specific smell. It’s not that bad, like when your dad eats 3 bowls of bean soup, but you can still smell it (and after a while, you are compeltely accustomed to it, maybe even love it!).

Horny elks? Well, yes, huge antlers! Starting mid summer, especially late August, early September, during the mating season, bull elks get very teritorial. So teritorial, in fact, that if you get close to some cow elks, they will see you as a potential male that wants his female, and they will fight you! They are known to destroy (or badly damage) cars that got too close to some females, just because they see you as their competitor. Try not pull them by the horns and stay at the respectable distance, ok?

UPPER TERRACES

One of the most interesting places in the Mammoth Hot Springs area is the Upper Terrace area. This area has many thermal features that are spread on big area south of the houses and hotel. It has the largest number of hot terraces in the world.

The rocks in the terraces are white, with some areas having a tinge of orange. But, you know what? The fun and amazing thing about this area, is that whatever you read here, in couple of days, weeks or months, it will be completely different. If you are staying in Mammoth for some longer time, you can follow the changes of these features in real time!

You can see many wildlife around here, most noticably birds. Many violet-green and tree swallows feed and bread here, as well as mountain bluebirds. If you are lucky, you can spot a bull snake on some of the exposed rocks, absorbing the sun.

GARDINER-MAMMOTH ROAD

BOILING RIVER is a must if you visit Yellowstone NP in the summer. It’s right in between Gardiner and Mammoth, and it is one of the kind place to go for a swim in the world. Boiling river is usually 50-60°C (120-138°F), and where it meets the Gardner river the temperature drops to the much more pleasant temperature.

The water is not deep, and in the area where the temperature is enjoyable, you can sit and enjoy the water like it’s some kind of unice hottub. I highly recommend it!

On the same road, you can see loads, and I mean loads of wildlife. Bighorn sheep are more often than not hanging out on the clifs and grazing shrubs, elk are crossing the road and not caring about you and the cars on the road, even Pronghorns and Bison can be seen on the meadows there. Keep in mind that if you go there, arm yourself with patience. People take their sweet time to take pictures of animals and animals take their sweet time (not) crossing roads. Just, whatever you do, don’t be one of those people that go out of their way to harass the animals to move – you can get gored, fined or killed. Safety is important.

BUNSEN PEAK TRAIL

Easy and simple trail, south of the Mammoth village, Bunsen Peak Trail gives you amazing views of the north entrance to the Park, Mammoth Upper Terraces, but also oportunity to see loads of different wildlife.

I went up there in 2014, so it has been a while, but not much has changed. The incline is still mild, the difficulty just as well. But when you get there, it is extremelly rewarding. My favorite thing ever, from this trail, was this particular dead tree, right on one of the north-bound cliffs, where I took some photos of the landscape. It was as much scary as it was exhilarating!

BEAVER PONDS

This 6-ish mile hike is really fun to go on. You go through forest, then you can find the beaver dens in the ponds there (I know, right, you didn’t see that one coming), and if you are lucky, you can see beavers too! They are mostly nocturnal animals, so sightings are not regular, but they are there. If you see one on the ground, and if you think they are cuddly, do not approach them – google beaver teeth if you wonder why.

It’s a longer trail, so you don’t have that many people going on it (but, it’s Yellowstone after all, so it still means couple of dozens instead of hundreds), so seeing bears is very real possibility! Both black bears and grizlies are seen around the area, so try to find someone to join you AND carry bear spray! When I was there, we saw 2 cubs of black bears, but we didn’t see the mom. Trust me, for the rest of the hike we were checking if she is somewhere around us!

AND MANY, MANY MORE…

There are still plenty more trails to discover around Mammoth. These just some, the ones we really liked and did (some even several times) ourselves. If you hiked around the Mammoth area, what was your favorite hike? Tell us, we might do just that one in the future!

Stay tuned for next post and follow our footprints!

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