Solfatara Creek Trail
ElevationAscent: 487' 149 m
Descent: -369' -113 m
High: 7,840' 2,390 m
Low: 7,414' 2,260 m
GradeAvg Grade: 2% (1°)
Max Grade: 29% (16°)
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“Follows the 1878 “Road to the Geysers” through several dry thermal areas and along Solfatara Creek.”— Tom Carter
The trail follows the original route taken by the historic 1878 Norris Road to the Geysers, connecting Mammoth Hot Springs to the Upper Geyser Basin. Park Superintendent Norris believed that construction of roads through Yellowstone would be a great benefit. Not only would "teeming throngs of tourists, enticed by the bracing air, the healing bathing-pools, and matchless beauties of the 'wonder land'," be encouraged to come, but opening a route through the park would reduce the government’s cost of supplying the chain of military posts in the west and promote settlement in the nearby areas and assist with the "Indian question." In 1878, Norris took "some 20 well-armed, mounted, equipped, resolute, and reliable mountaineer laborers" to build a road up the Mammoth Hot Springs terraces and through a pass into the Swan Lake Flats and on to the Upper Geyser Basin.
Unfortunately, other than that bit of history, there is little to recommend taking this trail. Much of the trail follows the former road-bed and later added power lines. The trail travels near or through a number of mostly dry, acidic thermal areas, including Amphitheater Springs near the north end and Whiterock Springs near the midpoint. But Yellowstone has far more interesting backcountry thermal basins to visit.
From the northern trailhead the trail quickly passes Amphitheater Springs (on the right). That strange lime-colored creek flowing out of the area is known as Lemonade Creek. The trail then climbs, sometimes steeply, up 400 feet in the first mile. As the trail nears the top of the hill it joins the power line service road, which it follows up and down on a fairly straight path for almost 2 miles. Due to downed trees and new growth following a forest fire it is exceedingly difficult to reach Lake of the Woods, which the trail passes.
At the 2.8-mile mark the trail passes through Whiterock Springs (mostly dry). From there the trail follows Solfatara Creek (as it flows south to join the Gibbon River) for the final 4 miles and ends at Norris Campground. Along the way, it passes through some nice wildflower meadows and a junction with the Howard Eaton Trail (on the right at the 6.1-mile mark).
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone.
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Family Friendly, ADA Accessible, Need to Know, Flora & Fauna