For our official start of hiking season, we chose the Hoodoo Trail in Yellowstone. The boys and I hiked it one other time, but they were too young to remember.
I like this trail for kids because it’s short, sparsely traveled even though it is right near super-popular Mammoth, mostly downhill. There are lots of fun rocks, the so called “hoodoos,” to climb on.
As is our way, we stopped 900 times for snacks and Finn was exhausted (his words) three minutes into the hike. Fortunately, he rallied and walked all but two minutes of the trail by himself. It may have been due to the promise of ice cream. Whatever works….
These rocks aren’t what I think of as “hoodoos.” Rather than pinnacles of weathered sandstone, they are travertine stacks from Terrace Mountain. Travertine is formed when hydrothermal water brings dissolved calcium carbonate to the earths surface, where it releases carbon dioxide and creates the white rock.The terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs are made out of the same rock, but the hot springs are still active there and growing the terraces. The hoodoos are old travertine formations left over from when this was once a thermally active area that fell into a jumble in a landslide.
To learn more about the geologic history of the hoodoos, watch this minute-and-a-half video.
The trail ends at the Upper Terraces, and we walked out the Upper Terrace Road to the main road, where I hitchhiked back to our car.
There is a loop option for folks who don’t want to hitchhike, or are looking for a longer walk. Start at the same trailhead, but instead of veering right at the Hoodoo junction, continue on ahead. After 2.3 miles, the route turns east at a 3-way junction and climbs to the top of Snow Pass, a narrow saddle pinched between Terrace Mountain and Clagett Butte. After cresting the pass, the trail drops into an unnamed creek valley above Pinyon Terrace, then rounds to the south along Terrace Mountain’s eastern edge. Catch the hoodoo trail and continue on in the opposite direction we walked it. The loop is 7 miles.
It was kind of interesting that all the Americans sped right past me. It wasn’t until some Eastern Europeans came by that I got a ride. They didn’t even speak much English, and they were willing to take me back up the hill.
Plan Your Own Trip
What: Hoodoo Basin Trail in Yellowstone National Park (3 miles one-way)
Why: Easy hike, hoodoos to climb on, interesting geology, views of Bunsen Peak, pretty meadows, hot springs (at the end).
Where: Drive 4.8 miles south of Mammoth on the Mammoth-Norris road. Park on the right (east) side of the road in the Bunsen Peak parking area. Cross the road to the Glen Creek Trailhead and follow to the signed Hoodoo junction. Go right.
Who: Families, kids, anyone looking for a short, interesting walk.