We decided to head on over to Yellowstone today in the hope that the snow would not be too deep for hiking. Plan B was to drive east past Mammoth Hot Springs and cruise through the Lamar Valley hoping to see big animals, like buffalo, elk, and bears. An inquiry with the ranger at the North entrance at Gardiner resulted in advice to head on over to the Lost Lake Loop. We were looking for a 2 hour hike that was in an area that would be out of the wind, as much as possible.
Lost lake Loop–Roundtrip Distance: 4.0 miles (6.4 km)
Time: 2-3 hours
Level of Difficulty: Moderate
The trail starts behind Roosevelt Lodge and climbed through forested hillsides to a trail junction. Veering right (west), the trail reached Lost Lake in 0.2 miles (0.3) km.). From there we followed the trail around a hill to the Petrified Tree and Petrified Tree parking area. The trail left that parking lot at the northeast corner and continued through open sage hill tops and then descended to the Tower Ranger Station. Roosevelt Lodge was only a 0.2 mile (0.3 km. walk from the Ranger Station.
The most treacherous portion of the hike was negotiating the ice between stepping out of the car and our arrival at the top of the 360 foot elevation portion of the switchbacked trail. There was plenty of ice in the streams that passed under the trail. Once we hit the end of the firstclimb, things got much better: the sun came out, the trail was more trodden, and it was actually warm as we approached Lost Lake.
Soon we skirted the Lake, and felt like we could do this.
Eventually we left the Lake and entered a valley that swung us in a loop past high hills on either side. Here the wind picked up again, the cold came on strong, and I put my new cowboy bandana across my face for protection. We had to go up again for just a short bit, then entered a beautiful expanded area that eventually brought us back down to the car.
Checking our watches, we saw that we completed the 4 mile loop in just 1 hour. We were able to slide and trot down the last mile long descent, which was the major factor in our scooting right along.
On the way back, we saw two bald eagles, one huge buffalo walking along the road, and numerous elk and bufalloes in the scrub brush and fields feeding on the dry frozen grasses.
The magic of the day did not end. Our evening stop was at Chico Hot Springs, where we were able to soak in the heated pools for a hour and then we we were all salivating at the door for our 7 PM reservation, primed for prime. Actually , Lincoln was the only one who had the 12 oz. prime rib. I had the 8 oz. tenderloin with gorgonzola, Marcia had a strip steak, and Stephanie the rack of lamb. Three of us maintained our good standing in the clean plate club. Chico and Yellowstone is a double punch duo that is easily accomplished from our base in Livingston. Loved it today!