Sunday, August 9, 2009

Elephant Back Mountain and Avalanche Peak

This morning, Colin and I got up early and drove to the Lake Yellowstone area in the Southern section of the park to hike Elephant Back Mountain and Avalanche Peak. Both hikes are exactly 4 miles and are out and back hikes. We hiked Elephant Back first. 

Elephant back is a gradual, 800 ft. climb to a beautiful view of Yellowstone Lake. It was about 40 degrees when we started hiking, but we warmed up quickly as we climbed. The trail went through lush, green forest until the summit. Towards the top, we got some beautiful views of the lake below. From the top, we could see the Lake Hotel, the oldest hotel in the park, built in the late 1800s. After taking in the views at the top, we headed down to the trailhead so we could start our second hike of the day. 

The trail up Elephant Back Mountain

At the top

Lake Yellowstone below

The trailhead to Avalanche Peak is about 19 miles away from the trailhead to Elephant Back. We got there at around noon, and started the strenuous hike to the summit. The entire hike up is a category H climb. Interestingly, H stands for "horrible" and I could certainly see why on this hike. 

Although the hike up was only 2 miles, it seemed like 4. The first 1.2 miles are through the woods. Finally, we came to the tree line, and the terrain changed immediately. The forest was replaced with rocks - covering the entire mountain and the trail up, which was covered in skree. The trail went along the edge of the exposed mountainside, and the wind was so strong and cold that it took my breath away at times. 

The treeline

The summit in the distance

We continued up to an open area that we thought was the summit. We soon realized that we were wrong - the summit was in front of us and still a big climb awaited us. We continued on the trail, which was now made up of red rocks. 

At the summit

When we got to the top, we were rewarded with amazing views in all directions which made all our effort worth it. It was extremely cold and windy on the tiny, rocky summit. We stayed long enough to take some pictures and enjoy the view before heading back to the trailhead. The trail was so steep that my knees were very sore by the time we got to the bottom. The amazing views were definitely worth it though!


  1. I was looking around the web about Avalanche Peak, and came across your page. I was just in the park last week, and we had a "fun" time hiking Avalanche Peak. It was hilarious to hear you say that you thought you had reached the top, only to find you had more to go. That happened to me about 4 times before reaching the top!

    Anyhow, none of us could figure out what could have possibly deposited all of the rocks at the top of that mountain. I have never seen rocks like that so high up! I don't see what could have caused an avalanche as it seems to be the tallest mountain around.

    Let me know if you were able to find anything that explains what was up with it.

    Hope you had a good time!

  2. Your description of Avalanche Peak mirrored our experiences on Chocorua in many ways. You'll recall that the hike up was pretty easy till Champney Falls, then got steeper and rocker, especially when the trail veers away from the creek.

    And then, in our case due to the fog, we thought we'd reached the top, then looked up and saw the summit peaking thru the mist.

    Though we got lucky with the clouds breaking long enough for you to get some nice pics, you wouldn't believe the views on a clear day.

    As for my knees...the muscles above my left one are still killing me three days later. All worth it.

    I'm really going to miss your blogging when you get back to school.