The Hoodoo Basin is one of the most remote sections of Yellowstone. Just to reach the trailhead, one must first work their way out 7.5 miles along the Lamar River Trail
, an additional 7.9 miles on the Miller Creek Trail
, and a short 0.7 mile section of the Bootjack Gap Trail
. But many believe it is worth the effort!
From the trailhead, the trail immediately fords Miller Creek. By mid-July it's usually an easy less-than-knee-high affair. You should fill your water bottles here, since water becomes scarce as you gain elevation. From Miller Creek the trail switchbacks steeply up and open ridge, gaining 1000 feet in the first 1.5 miles. Thereafter, it moderates, but only slightly, gaining another 1000 feet in the next 3.5 miles. The higher you climb, the more spectacular the views of the high Absaroka Range become.
The rugged Absaroka Mountains (pronounced "AB-sa-RO-ka" or "ab-SAR-o-ka"), which comprise the eastern boundary of Yellowstone, are named for the Crow Indians who inhabited this region. "Absaroka" (which means "children of the large beaked bird") is the Crow Indians' name for themselves. These mountains are volcanic in origin. Between 50 and 55 million years ago a myriad of volcanos erupted, sometimes violently, spewing hot molten lava, breccias, rock bombs, cinders and ash. At the end of the Absaroka volcanism, Yellowstone was buried beneath several thousand feet of volcanic debris. Millions of years of subsequent geologic activity have obscured much. Today, the Absaroka Range is a remnant of the vast pile of volcanic rocks that once covered Yellowstone.
At the 4.75 mile mark you reach the top of your big climb and the views are spectacular. Immediately to the south lies 10,203 foot Parker Peak, named for William Parker. He accompanied park Superintendent P.W. Norris on one of the first explorations in this area. Norris was so taken with Parker's sketches of the gargoyle-like Hoodoos that he included them in his official 1880 Annual Report.
From this point north of Parker Peak, the trail drops, then regains 500 feet in the next mile, then rambles another mile before reaching the Hoodoo Basin at the 7 mile mark. These weird eroded features were discovered and named in 1870 by Adam "Horn" Miller. For many, this is the turnaround point. Others wishing to soak up this high alpine scenery continue another 3 miles in and out of the park and up 800 feet to the trail's terminus at a junction with the NFS Sunlight Creek Trail.
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone