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UNMAINTAINED AND UNMAPPED TRAILS
As recently as three years ago, most of the available trail maps of Yellowstone still showed many of Yellowstone's unmaintained trails (those trails that had been officially constructed and still had some sort of tree markings as navigation). Some of these trails make for fine hikes and can still be traced in their entirety.
However more interesting are those trails that have not shown on any maps for at least 50 years but are still navigable to some degree. Listed below are trails that fall into both categories. They are all still nevigable to some degree.
BEACH LAKE TO MARY LAKE
Although most maps show an old trail from the West Thumb-Fishing Bridge road, up Arnica Creek, to Beach Lake; and from Mary Lake north to the Canyon-Norris road; there is a connecting trail from Beach Lake to Mary Lake thus completing a north-south route across the Central Plateau. It is not easily followed and it does not quite link the two spots. It is marked with very old trail markers.
I haven't confirmed it, but I have been told of another man-made trail that links Beach Lake to Dryad Lake, also complete with trail markers.
STORM PEAK TRAIL
This old trail appears on a local service station map I have from the 1940's. It starts at the top of Observation Peak, and goes north across the Washburn Range until meeting the Tower Creek trail, thus linking Tower Fall to Canyon Village. It still exists today complete with several hand-written signs nailed to the trunks of trees.
DRYAD LAKE TO THE HAYDEN VALLEY
I stumbled onto this amazing trail in 1993. Its origins are completely unknown to me. It begins on the north side of Dryad Lake and heads almost due north until reaching the finger meadow of Trout Creek. Here I left the trail. It continued north towards the southwest corner of the Hayden Valley. Therefore it seems that I only hiked a portion of what must be a much longer trail. It is my contention that the entire 5 mile stretch that I walked was created by bison during their seasonal migrations. I should say that this is one of the best trails I have seen in Yellowstone. Man-made or not. It is never steep, follows the ridges perfectly, and is always easy to see with little deadfall. Apparently the bison construct a better trail than most people. I searched meticulously for any sign of man on this trail and found none. If anyone else has hiked in this section of the park, I would very much like to know.
WAPITI LAKE TO AMETHYST MOUNTAIN
("THE BUFFALO HIGHWAY")
Where the last trail is probably a buffalo trail; this one is a certainty. It links the Wapiti Lake Trail to the Specimen Ridge Trail. This 10+ mile thoroughfare is probably the best example of a large scale, seasonal bison migration route still left in North America. Literally an 8-lane "buffalo highway"; it is impossible to miss with its multi-lane paths. It is the animals' major route of travel between the Pelican and Lamar Valleys.
SOUTH TWIN BUTTE
View looking east from the summit of South Twin Butte.
This trail has probably been hiked by many. I found it while scrambling up the west side of South Twin Butte in 1992. Much to my surprise was a very new and very maintained trail from the Little Firehole Meadows trail all the way to the summit of the butte. It had no trail markers but was well laid in. It does not show in any hiking trail books or on any maps. I have no information about who put it in or why.
DUNANDA FALLS TO THE WEST BOUNDARY TRAIL
Another of the old unmapped trails; this 5 mile east-west trail follows the southern edge of the Madison Plateau and links the Boundary Creek trail to the West Boundary trail in the parks Bechler Region. My understanding is that sections of this trail are very difficult to follow. Again I have no information on the history of this trail, but early poachers are a possibility. The Bechler region was one of the worst areas for poaching in the park's earliest days.
THOROFARE RANGER STATION TO THE SUMMIT OF THE TRIDENT
Having a job where you are over 30 miles from the nearest road for over 5 months and very little human contact can cause one to get quite creative. Apparently that is exactly what happened in the case of this trail. It seems that the Thorofare Ranger decided to build his own trail without official permission. Although this is about the most distant section of wilderness in the lower 48; some in the park service were not happy about his decision to build it. Nevertheless it is my understanding that the trail is still there. (it was only put in a few years ago) Unfortunately it takes about three days of hiking just to get to the beginning of this remotest of Yellowstone trails.
THE BANNOCK TRAIL
In my opinion this is the most fascinating of the historic park trails. The Bannock Indians used the trail as a route by which members of the tribe could reach certain areas where necessary foods existed; specifically the bison. Today it is still navigable, but for an expert only. It enters the park north of West Yellowstone near Duck Creek. It then travels northeast up the Maple Creek drainage and climbs over the Gallatins just north of Mt. Holmes. Once over the pass it follows Indian Creek, crosses Gardner's Hole and continues down into the area near Lava Creek. It then roughly parallels the highway until reaching the Lamar River, where it follows the watercourse until breaking to the east along a ridge between Cache and Calfee creeks. It finally heads east and out of the park high in the Absaroka Mountains.
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