Mammoth Hot Springs to Cooke City
Take a left in downtown Mammoth towards Tower Junction, and the road winds down and away from the hot springs. Hundreds of elk tracks can be seen in the snow along the road.
The road then comes to a bridge spans the Gardiner River some 800 feet below. The road then again rises for miles as you enter wolf country. We have been lucky twice to come upon folks watching wolves with high-powered scopes. We hit the jackpot this year on the Blacktail Plateau. Kind, Christmas Day visitors shared their view of two wolves lying near an elk pack at the edge of a timber stand. What a thrill to see wolves!
Traveling on, bison were the main event as we neared Tower Juntion. Our phones beeped and buzzed as we entered cell range with Christmas wishes from family and friends. Groups of cross-country skiers set out on trails from Tower while photographers of all skill sets snapped photos of nearby bison.
The Lamar Valley in winter always takes my breath away. Vast, mountain rimmed, and snow covered, the valley lay cold before us. Much of the Lamar River was frozen solid with nothing more than a thin blue line of open water in places where the river runs fast.
The a distinct smell of sulfur filled the air as we rolled down the car windows to watch a coyote hunt small creatures under the snow.
Bighorn sheep grazed high on a steep hillside near a winding section of road. Soda Butte Creek comes into view as we leave the Lamar Valley behind.
On this trip we did not go all the way to Cooke City, a small gateway town at the northeast entrance to the Park. In winter, Cooke City is a snowmobiler’s paradise with abundant trails and backcountry riding.
Steep mountains follow the road while the small, Soda Butte Creek, bubbles along the road. The mountain scenery is just jaw-dropping when sunny. On this trip, however, clouds and snow showers were more common than blue skies.