Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Suspension Bridge on the Hellroaring Creek Trail - Yellowstone National Park


The northern section of Yellowstone appears to be nothing but wilderness. So it's quite surprising to see a suspension bridge spanning the Yellowstone River in this area. The bridge was constructed to give hikers and equestrians access to Hellroaring Creek. The bridge is located 1 mile down the Hellroaring Creek trail. Don't let that distance fool you. The hike to the bridge requires descending 600 feet down multiple switchbacks.

Location: The trail head is located in the middle of the northern part of the Upper Loop of the Grand Loop Road. It is 4 miles west of Roosevelt Lodge and 14 miles east of the Mammoth Hot Springs Area.

Hiking Distance and Time: The full trail is 2 miles one way so 4 miles round trip.  The bridge is one mile down the trail.  But that first mile is hardly easy.  There are multiple switch backs that take you down 600 feet.

Open Season:  The trail is open mid-may through October. But keep in mind that the trail will be very hot during the day in the summer months.

Date of Visit: Friday July 14, 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is the 20th of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. At first these aren't going to be in any particular order, but in a few months I'll start grouping them into lists. This one would probably fit into a list such as best day hikes in the park.



Yellowstone never stopped surprising me.  Before we started our epic summer I thought I had a pretty good idea of the features I wanted to see.  But it seemed like the more I learned about the park the more I wanted to see.  One day I was flipping through our guidebook, (A Rangers Guide to Yellowstone Day Hikes by Roger Anderson and Carol Shiverly Anderson) when I spotted a picture of a suspension bridge over the Yellowstone River.  I couldn't believe that there was a suspension bridge on a hiking trail.  Of course this was added to my summer bucket list for things we needed to do in the park.

The bridge was located on the trail to Hellroaring Creek.  The full trail is 2 miles one way and takes hikers to a back country campground.  This is a good option for an overnight trip.  My husband and I decided at the beginning of the summer that we wouldn't do any back country camping with our young children.  So we weren't interested in doing the full trail.  We were most interested in seeing the bridge which was "only" a mile down the trail. 
We set off happily on the trail. The scenery was beautiful and this area of the park felt especially remote.  In the distance we could see the triangular shape of Hellroaring Mountain.  I saw this mountain every day as I commuted to the Roosevelt Area over the Dunraven Pass.  I always loved looking at its triangular shape.  
But soon I forgot all about admiring that mountain or any of the other scenery.  That's because this hike ended up being one of the hardest ones that my family ever went on. It was mostly our fault.

This was only one day after we'd done the 7 mile hike up and down Mt Washburn.  So the kids (and adults) weren't super excited about another hike.  Also we'd gotten a late start that day and so we were hiking in the near afternoon heat.  And to top it all off, I'd never really bothered to read the trail description for the hike.  I didn't realize that we'd be descending 600 feet during this first part of the trail.  There were so many switch backs. With every switch back down I worried about how we would get back up those switch backs in the hot afternoon.
After what seemed like much more than a mile we finally found the bridge. It was a fantastic sight. I don't know who had the idea to put a bridge in here, but I'm glad they did.
 We crossed the bridge and found it to be much more stable than it looked. My husband had been kind of hoping it would be shaky so he could pretend to be Indiana Jones.  This bridge is also used by horses so it's good that it's stable.
There was wire all along the sides of the bridge so we didn't have to worry about the kids falling off the sides.
 We could look down and see the Yellowstone River rush under the bridge.
 We found a shady spot to rest and eat before it was time to go back up the trail.
Even with the break, the hike back out was hard.  Some of the kids got a little emotional.  We were all relieved to make it back to the car.

One day, when the kids are older, I want to come back here.  I'd love to do the full trail and stay overnight in the back country campground at Hellroaring Creek.  Like I said, the more I learn about Yellowstone the more I want to see.

Recommendation: Despite our bad experience, I still recommend this hike because a suspension bridge in the middle of nowhere is a pretty interesting sight. Just make sure you have plenty of water, you start early in the day, and you are prepared for a lot of switchbacks.

Directions:  The trail head is located in the middle of the northern part of the Upper Loop of the Grand Loop Road. It is 4 miles west of Roosevelt Lodge and 14 miles east of the Mammoth Hot Springs Area.  The trail head is located in a little parking lot down a short drive off of the Upper Loop Road.  A small sign marked "Hellroaring Creek" will let you know when to turn off the Grand Loop Road.

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I would love to hear what you think. Did I get it right, or was I dead wrong? What was your experience like?

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