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 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!