Day 27 – 9/26 Yellowstone northern loop, Mammoth Springs and Lamar Valley

Today is our last full day here, and tomorrow we head to Helena, MT on our way to Glacier.  We have ambitious plans today, wake up no later than 8, to leave by 9 and we’ll do the upper loop of Yellowstone, and try to do Lamar Valley as well if we can.  It was raining a bit this morning, and the forecast is that we’ll have overcast with some sun, and in the 50s.  

Our ambitious plan worked out, for the most part.  We left at 8:55!  So we made awesome time, the only part we were not able to get done was the stretch between Tower and Canyon as the road has been closed for some time now, so we didn’t get to see that stretch, but we made it to Lamar Valley, and drove it all the way to the end.

We were able to get everything and everyone packed and ready in good time, even Maggie came along for the day.  We were not rushing, but there was not much messing around by the kids, they got right to it and that helped get things done.  We let the kids use their electronics until we hit the part of the park that we had not been to before, and that worked well.  They also set Maggie in the middle seat between them, which was cool and cute. 

The drive in was the usual, many turns, ups and downs, mountains, rivers, awesome views… and Elk and one or two Buffalo in the same spot, before Madison Junction.  This time when we hit Madison Junction we turned left to go North, and once we hit Norris, we kept going straight towards Mammoth. 

The views change a bit as you get North, feels like more mountains and more valleys and canyons.  We encountered a few Buffalo running on the road, trying to cross a bridge, pretty early after Norris, and we followed the 4 the entire bridge until they hopped to the right onto the field.  That was really cool.  It was a nice start to the new section of the park. 

And next we had amazing views of canyons, with rocks on our side, the canyon in the middle and a mountain on the other side.  Amazing views.  Carol took most of the pictures as there were not many stops, and the very few were packed, so we didn’t make a lot of stops.  The drive was so nice and different from what we were seeing in the rest of the park that it felt like we arrived in Mammoth Springs in no time. 

We did stop to check out some waterfalls on the way, and take a few pics from the canyon area.  Mammoth was amazing.  For two main reasons, one the views from the upper terrace are amazing. 

You see the hot springs, you see the mountain, you see a bridge far away, you see the Mammoth Springs Village, just breathtaking views. 

The second reason is the Elk!  We were able to see Elk from across the street, taking amazing pictures, even the bull Elk was there with its huge horns, it was really cool to see.  The kids were super excited, and we were out of the car near the elks for at least 30 minutes.  That was something very special, being there I the middle of all those Elk and seeing the bull, and being so close to all of that was amazing.  Pictures or words can’t describe that. 

Now, back to the springs.  There is a trail you take to see the springs and different views from the terraces, so we took that.  It was about a 40 minute hike, mostly easy, until you get to the end and have to walk uphill, but it’s not bad.  The springs form very cool and interesting designs, with colors and paths that look each unique.  I don’t remember the names of the springs, we walked kind of quick, took some pics, soaked in the views, and moved on. 

At this point, we were a little “geysered out” and “springed out” from seeing so many other ones the days before.  A little after Mammoth we stopped on a picnic area to have lunch.  It was a nice little spot with a river running by it, bathrooms, etc.  It was a bit cold, but we had a quick lunch, and enjoyed the spot. 

From there to Tower Junction, which is the end of the road since the stretch from there is closed, and also is where we turn to Lamar Valley, the drive was absolutely stunning.  We were in the middle of mountains, and each mountain seemed to be different from there other, where one was a big rock, the other had trees covering it, the other looked like sand, etc.  other times we were next to a canyon, with amazing views, and sometimes we were down low in the valleys. 

We saw some animals, but it was really when we turned in to Lamar Valley that the magic happened.  Almost right away when we turned in we saw a herd of buffalo on our left, being led by a huge buffalo.  There were maybe a hundred of them.  It was amazing to watch. 

We stopped, got out, took pictures as the herd passed, then we moved on to be ahead of them again, and did the same thing.  At another point, I realized they maybe would cross the street, so I had everyone hop in the car so we could get ahead of that, and sure enough, just a bit ahead, they started crossing, and we were right there, first car, watching it all.  That was amazing, just super special.  I think this was the most magical and special thing we saw during our stay here. 

Everything is amazing, the views, the features, the animals…. But watching a herd of Buffalo go, follow their leader, watching some of the bigger ones in the middle and in the back sometimes turn around as if they were making sure others were following, seeing the baby buffalo follow their mom, and run to catch up, on top of the beautiful backdrop we had… is unforgettable. 

Lamar valley is very cool, it is a big valley, very wide and long, between mountains, with a river crossing the valley, so animals like that they have water and food, and that makes it better to spot wild life there.  As we continued the drive, there was a spot full of cars, so we stopped and walked into the valley towards the water, where the crowd was, not knowing what we were going to be looking at. Hahahahaha..  When we got there and asked, there were 4 wolves way out in the field, and even with binoculars they were tiny.  It took a long time to spot them, but eventually Carol did with her camera, but it is very hard to see them.  We may be buying some powerful binoculars I guess, we’ll see.  It was nice to walk a bit down the valley, where the animals roam. 

We finished our drive to the end of Lamar Valley and turned around, now to just enjoy the views as we returned to our RV and were done for the day.  It is a 2.5 hour drive from within the park, so we continued soaking in the views, seeing more buffalo here and there, but a big herd anymore.  Saw the elk again at Mammoth, etc.  This was surely an amazing way to end our visit to Yellowstone. 

When we got back, we put things away, started packing for tomorrow, got a fire going, food, then ate, roasted marshmallows, watched a movie and that was it, awesome last day here.

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