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Avalanche Peak/Hoyt Peak

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Avalanche Peak/Hoyt Peak

Postby BobSmith » Wed Jul 28, 2010 2:28 am

Well, with my first visit to Yellowstone coming up in just two weeks, I finally am narrowing down my hikes. I'm taking three days for hiking peaks...mainly half-day hikes, since I have non-hiking family members to consider.

Washburn will be first, I think.

But I'm going to do Avalanche Peak. If I decide to hit Hoyt Peak, how many round-trip miles will that be to do both mountains from parking lot to return? I'm planning on setting a slow but steady pace, since I don't want to go running through griz country like I do here in the East.
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Postby chugach mtn boy » Wed Jul 28, 2010 4:06 am

I don't know, Bob, maybe 6: http://www.summitpost.org/view_object.php?object_id=314614. But if memory serves there's quite a bit of rubble & scree on both mountains and the going will be sort of slow... I bet your nonhiking friends are ready to call it good after just one peak.

I worked a few seasons in the park, and my favorite half day hikes were just to one side of the ones you have picked out. Rather than go with the crowds to Mt Washburn, I used to hike up the meadows from near Dunraven Pass to Mt Hedges and wander on down the grassy crest to the west. Rather than Avalanche/Hoyt, a favorite was Top Notch Peak (which is on SP). It's just a 1500' rise, and if you have energy and time left over, the longer walk along the ridge from Top Notch to Mt Langford is about as gorgeous as any in the park.

Make sure you stay, or at least have an evening or early morning, up in the Lamar Valley/Northeast entrance area, just for the scenery and wildlife. There are nice half day hikes in that area too, such as to Specimen Ridge.
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Postby Bob Sihler » Wed Jul 28, 2010 1:25 pm

I can't remember how many miles it was when Mike Hoyt and I did both Avalanche and Hoyt, but it's about 2.5 miles to Avalanche and about the same to Hoyt from the TH, plus the connecting ridge, so figure on around 8 miles. He and I started around 6 a.m. and were done well before noon.

I would definitely tack on Hoyt. Avalanche is nice, with good views, but it attracts a lot of people and isn't very peaceful unless you start early enough and go fast enough to be the first one up. Hoyt attracts far fewer climbers because it has no maintained trail. The views from there are better, in my opinion, and the ridge is more fun than the hike up Avalanche.

Washburn really isn't very interesting-- very busy, good overview of the park even though the higher mountains are too far away to really appreciate-- but I can see why a first-time visitor would want to go up there. I did it as a time-killer one year and found it pretty boring. And the busy scene at the summit lookout made me want to get the hell out of there quickly, a sad thing to say about a mountaintop.
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Postby BobSmith » Wed Jul 28, 2010 4:17 pm

chugach mtn boy wrote:I don't know, Bob, maybe 6: http://www.summitpost.org/view_object.php?object_id=314614. But if memory serves there's quite a bit of rubble & scree on both mountains and the going will be sort of slow... I bet your nonhiking friends are ready to call it good after just one peak.

I worked a few seasons in the park, and my favorite half day hikes were just to one side of the ones you have picked out. Rather than go with the crowds to Mt Washburn, I used to hike up the meadows from near Dunraven Pass to Mt Hedges and wander on down the grassy crest to the west. Rather than Avalanche/Hoyt, a favorite was Top Notch Peak (which is on SP). It's just a 1500' rise, and if you have energy and time left over, the longer walk along the ridge from Top Notch to Mt Langford is about as gorgeous as any in the park.

Make sure you stay, or at least have an evening or early morning, up in the Lamar Valley/Northeast entrance area, just for the scenery and wildlife. There are nice half day hikes in that area too, such as to Specimen Ridge.


Thanks for the advice. Maybe I'll do the alternate hike you suggest to Hedges.
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Postby BobSmith » Wed Jul 28, 2010 4:19 pm

Bob Sihler wrote:I can't remember how many miles it was when Mike Hoyt and I did both Avalanche and Hoyt, but it's about 2.5 miles to Avalanche and about the same to Hoyt from the TH, plus the connecting ridge, so figure on around 8 miles. He and I started around 6 a.m. and were done well before noon.

I would definitely tack on Hoyt. Avalanche is nice, with good views, but it attracts a lot of people and isn't very peaceful unless you start early enough and go fast enough to be the first one up. Hoyt attracts far fewer climbers because it has no maintained trail. The views from there are better, in my opinion, and the ridge is more fun than the hike up Avalanche.

Washburn really isn't very interesting-- very busy, good overview of the park even though the higher mountains are too far away to really appreciate-- but I can see why a first-time visitor would want to go up there. I did it as a time-killer one year and found it pretty boring. And the busy scene at the summit lookout made me want to get the hell out of there quickly, a sad thing to say about a mountaintop.


Hm. I mainly want to hike Washburn for the view of the canyon, plus a chance to see some wildlife--bighorn sheep I've heard are in good numbers there. I knew that it was an old road and fairly crowded, so that's no surprise. Also, I want to make sure to bag at least one 10K foot peak in the park in case something happens and I can't do Avalanche/Hoyt.

Thanks for any advice. If you think of anything else, let me know.
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Postby Bob Sihler » Wed Jul 28, 2010 4:28 pm

BobSmith wrote:I mainly want to hike Washburn for the view of the canyon, plus a chance to see some wildlife--bighorn sheep I've heard are in good numbers there.


If you're interested in the canyon, I have two suggestions other than the very crowded trails in the Canyon area:

1. A short distance east from Tower Junction, hike up the Specimen Ridge Trail. It doesn't take long to get some good views of the canyon, and you won't see a lot of other people.

2. Hike to Tower Fall. Yes, that trail is really crowded, but you can access the river and explore along it, and there won't be many people there, either. It's still in the canyon.


As far as the sheep go, I can't recommend anything easier than Washburn other than lucking out and seeing some near Dunraven Pass. When I hiked Washburn, I didn't see any, though, probably because there were so many people out there. So go really early to improve your chances.

I could recommend a peak out in the Lamar Valley where you're likely to see sheep, elk, grizzlies, and bison (I saw several of each, at very close quarters, all in one day), but it's probably way beyond what you want to do on this trip. But definitely at least take a drive through the Lamar Valley; there's no consistently better place in the park for viewing wildlife from the road.
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Postby chugach mtn boy » Wed Jul 28, 2010 4:49 pm

Bob Sihler has some good thoughts there. I meant to amend my own Specimen Ridge recommendation to say: do it at dawn.

The canyon itself is super crowded, but it's crowded for a reason--it's just awesome. Washburn is not really the place to view it effectively. Bob S's ideas are good, but also be sure to go to a couple of the main canyon viewpoints near Canyon Village, with everybody else. If you want to avoid people, again, a dawn visit works well. Or moonlight ...

Bob Sihler, wouldn't you agree that the Mammoth area, on the road down to Gardiner, is the most reliable place for them to look for bighorns? Also, although they won't want to climb Abiathar Peak at the NE entrance, they could glass it and probably find some distant sheep.
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Postby Bob Sihler » Wed Jul 28, 2010 6:23 pm

chugach mtn boy wrote:Bob Sihler, wouldn't you agree that the Mammoth area, on the road down to Gardiner, is the most reliable place for them to look for bighorns? Also, although they won't want to climb Abiathar Peak at the NE entrance, they could glass it and probably find some distant sheep.


About that, I really couldn't say. I must admit I've become a bit of a snob when it comes to wildlife. I've seen so much on trails and peaks that I pretty much don't stop to look at anything from the car. It just doesn't interest me. Raptors are the exception. And if I saw a wolf, I'd stop, too.

So I really can't help there.

But Bob Smith-- a common theme from both of us is start early, like at dawn. There is a world of difference between Yellowstone early in the morning and Yellowstone after breakfast. For the first couple of hours of the day, there aren't many cars and there are fewer hikers. And more animals are out. After breakfast, you get the armies of tour buses, road-blocking and traffic-choking and corner-cutting RV's, and all the regular passenger vehicles. And any short trail to a highly scenic destination is a mob scene.
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Postby b. » Wed Jul 28, 2010 6:26 pm

The Mammoth-Gardiner road is a good place for sheep, and Dunraven. You can also hike up the old Chittendon road to the summit of Washburn. It's not paved and less crowded, mostly bikes. Another good Canyon hike: Start at the Upper Falls lookout on the South Rim (Uncle Tom's I think is the official name of the lookout), cross the South Rim drive to the Clear Lake trail. There are some really cool mud pots and other thermal features, then you pop out of the forest down the Canyon from Artist Point, near Point Sublime and hike along the rim back to Artist Point, and then back to the trailhead. You get a lot of really cool angles of the Canyon and you won't see too many folks back there.

Top Notch is a much better summit than Avalanche for a number of reasons. But you will definitely want your bear spray, especially if solo and especially if you wander back to Langford, Doane or Stevenson.
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