3 Night Out and Back: Southeast Arm of Lake Yellowstone on the Thorofare Trail


P1070757Night 1: 6.5 miles to campsite 5E8, Park Point

Pulling up at the nine mile post trailhead, we quickly realized that this might the least shady trailhead in the park. There was not a spot of shade as we set out packing our packs for this four day trip. We were sweating within minutes and our food was softening and melting away! Nonetheless, after about two hours we were packed, fed, and ready to venture down the Thorofare.

Sidenote: The Thorofare through-hike is the Holy Grail of Yellowstone National Park; It takes hikers 68.5 miles through the park, one-way, and reaches, at one point, the most remote spot in the lower 48. Whoa. This trail is pretty awesome. It’s been on the to-do list for quite a few years, but limiting factors in hiking this beast are always 1) time, because it takes a week or more, and 2) having 2 cars so you can leave one at the beginning and one at the end. So, we did not set out to hike the entire Thorofare on this trip- I swear we’ll do it someday- but we were lucky enough to get a permit for three nights in this beautiful (that’s a given in Yellowstone) area of the park!

The trailhead is on the east entrance road to the park, and it’s an area I haven’t spent much time in so I was excited to get out there, into Yellowstone’s quiet nether regions. We started out hiking in burnt forest, dusty and exposed. Within about half a mile of the trailhead we saw bear tracks (dun dun dun!!), but I will just ruin the suspense now by saying that besides a little scat, we saw no other signs of bear activity along this trail. Overall, this was a flat, easy 6.5 miles that took us in and out of burnt forest, over fallen logs, across a couple small streams, beside a meadow with mountain views, until we reached the spur trail for 5E8. This can be a bit confusing, as there is one ‘unofficial’ spur that you will reach before the ‘official,’ marked spur trail. We took the ‘unofficial’ route and walked along the lakeshore for about the 200 yards before reaching the site.

If I was holding onto any loyalties about any other site in this park, they were all gone once I saw 5E8. It’s definitely my favorite campsite in the park. There is an awesome fire pit with benches, as well as good tent sites. But what really did it for me was that this site is right on the shore of Lake Yellowstone; it’s just a few steps from the fire pit to the lake side. There’s nothing like a dip in freezing waters to wash away the dust and renew your energy after a day of hiking! And, to me, nothing says freedom more than getting in a high mountain lake. Ahhh yes. So, after some swimming we discovered the Yellowstone hot stone massage, where you lay your lake-numbed body on the warm pebble beach and let the warmth sooooaaakk into your weary but revitalized muscles. It’s as good as any spa treatment, I promise. After swimming and sunning came cooking on the beach and watching the vibrant sunset over the water. Our topic of discussion: the big-ness of Yellowstone and how you could easily spend your whole life here and not see it all.

Day 2: 8.2 miles to 5E3, Brimstone Point

Overall, the hike to this campsite was much more scenic than the first day. We started out hiking through thick forest before ascending a hill. We hiked along the side of this hill for quite a while, exposed in the hot sun but enjoying far-reaching views of the lake below us. Along the hillside we went in and out of meadows and forest. The ground cover was thick and lush, growing over the trail in some areas. The meadows were blooming with wildflowers: red, yellow, white, and purple. With the scenery of this day came elevation change; this part of the trail goes up and down a lot more. We had a few small stream crossings this day as well, but only one that required bare feet or a piggy back ride.

The second day, for me, is always the hardest. I don’t know why this is but it always seems to be. I was more tired and more sore. I could feel the bruises on my hips from my backpack. I could feel the start of pesky hot spots and blisters. It was starting to feel like a backpacking trip! Of course, a dip in the lake at the end of the day washed all these little ailments away. And an afternoon siesta propelled my body further into vacation mode. This site, too, is right on the lakeshore but didn’t seem quite as pristine to me as 5E8. The fire pit is in an open space with clear views of the lake, but it was a little harder to find a good tent site. Still, we got spoiled on this trip with our lakeside sites! The third day of our trip we hiked back to 5E8 and the fourth day we hiked out, for a grand total of 28.4 miles.

And the best part of this whole trip? Getting to show my fiance Alex the big,

Alex hanging our food on the bear pole.

Alex hanging our food on the bear pole.

open, quiet, beautiful, wild, free backcountry of Yellowstone. There’s no better place to vacation than Yellowstone’s backcountry.



One response »

  1. Nice! I’d like to hit Yellowstone at some point. My dad and I were talking about taking a summer and just hitting Yellowstone first and then maybe make our way up into AK and spend a week or two fishing.

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