I have been a lurker on this forum for a while now and while I haven't felt like I have much to contribute, I have really been inspired by your stories and the takeaways from your experiences have helped me tremendously. Trail running isn't very large here in the Tampa (FL) area so it has been really helpful for me to have access to a community forum like this one. That is my rambling way of saying thanks to all of you that post on here.
Now I have a question about trail running in the Yellowstone and Grand Teton area. I will be traveling in August and wanted to get some runs in (10-15 miles). We will be hiking during the trip (probably capped in the 6-10 mile range), but I was hoping to also find some nice trails that we may not get to hike as a family due to the length of the trail.
I read a recent thread on here about bears and the use of bear spray etc. - granted it seemed more geared towards black bears and the YNP and Grand Teton are more grizzly areas - and it seemed like there are a few of you that run in areas with bears without many issues. I would be the only person running during the trip and wasn't sure if that was advisable on trails in the park area. When I read the official YNP website they discourage being alone regardless of if you're running or just hiking so it may be pointless to find good trails to run on in the park if I would be solo. On the other hand, I have read accounts of people running solo in the park without any issues, but I wanted to see if any of you had personal experiences in those parks. Have you run in YNP or Grand Teton by yourself, if so, do you have any recommendations/advice or is it not advisable if you don't have at least one other person with you?
While black bear and grizzly ranges rarely overlap, there are plenty of black bear in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. Be prepared for both. When I ran there I kept to the roads so can't really speak of good trails or areas for running.
2014 Goals: Run first trail ultra, first 100K, and see what I can do in a 24-Hour race
Sorry I can't help, other than to say that you should follow the posted info about hiking/running in bear country. The hard part is as you note, not to go alone, maybe you can ask around once you are there to see if there are other runners there.
When I was traveling a lot with the family, I used to be the "scout", during my morning runs I'd find the nice places for the family to hike later in the day.
Anyway, good luck and welcome to the trail trash.
running under the BigSky
Their advice on discouraging solo travel is as much to do with remoteness of the country as it is with bear danger. Lots more can go wrong in the backcountry than bear encounters, and if solo that can complicate things (namely getting help). Personally, I wouldn't be discouraged running solo- carry bear spray (this is grizzly country), stay alert during your runs, consider running primarily during the day (try to avoid dawn, dusk and night) and pick more popular trails (definitely avoid trails w/ signage declaring recent grizzly activity). If you can find like minded folks that want to run, that's better yet.
Enjoy yourself, you'll be experiencing some of the nicest country in the US
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I haven't even been lurking as of late but for some reason I scrolled thru things today and saw this thread so of course I feel compelled to offer my take with some disjointed and random thoughts. I guess since you are going in August I might be of a little help.
I have done a number of trips to both parks with some longish solo trail runs and some extensive hiking so here it goes..
For the record--Black bears and grizzlies will reside within the same area. While they each have their preferred habitat it does and will overlap. Yellowstone has a large black bear population and the grizzlies have been expanding their range in a big way. Used to be the Tetons were mostly black bears but that has been changing. In addition grizzlies have now been spotted as far south as Sink Canyon south of Lander at the southeast corner of the Wind River range and in what has been heavy black bear range in the past. In Yellowstone you will have higher densities of grizzlies around the Hayden Valley, Fishing Bridge at Yellowstone Lake and along the entire eastern side into Absororka(sp) range. The area in the southwest referred to as the Bechler region or waterfall corner is mainly black bears. Great potential for trail running in there but access is difficult.
In general Yellowstone lends itself greatly for trail running. Unreal wildlife sightings, thermals, geysers, beautiful rivers, meadows, etc. As you are already up on a plateau or I guess within a giant caldera you don't have to do the lung busting climbs though they are there if you want them.
To answer your question if solo running is advisable in either park the answer is a resounding YES. Just be confident and vigilant. Have a "hunters" eye when running in there. Move a little slower and don't allow your mind to head off into la-la land. Carry bear spray in an accessible manner and make sure you have it rehearsed in your mind on how to use it. Do not wear those stupid bells on your shoes. If you don't run in there it will be something you regret.
I have run by ,trophy elk in there that were so close I had to move back to get them in the viewfinder, buffalo/bison by the gazzilions, bighorns, moose,etc. While trail running quite a ways back in I did see a grizzly at about 80-100 yds out across a small meadow. That was pretty cool. Never felt in any peril and actually hung on the edge of the meadow and watched awhile. Somewhat surreal.
The Tetons though while beautiful are a lot different. Not as much to do and a trip there for most is windshield time with the usual stops at the church, sod roofed cabin, Jenny lake, etc. Trail running in there is lung busting climbs and quad trashing descents. The park is basically a flat plain with an abrupt climb straight up. An outstanding circle route is going up Cascade canyon and coming down Paintbrush canyon. Circle route that is roughly 18-19 miles. Remember a lot of that is power hiking and not pure running. Slow going and probably about 6 hours. One of the most beautiful runs that you could ever do. There are some other loop trail options especially east of Jackson lake but I'm not too familiar with them. There are some other routes up to the Teton Crest trail that may lend themselves for out and backs. Anytime up on the Teton Crest would be awesome.
Being from Florida and I'm not sure of any past experience in the western mountains but going from sea level to that altitude could be an interesting adjustment. Good luck with that.
FWIW-- I have never carried bear spray while running and that includes running in closed areas in Glacier and solo. Never worried though I still would advise you to. I just have a false sense of security from years of hunting and playing in the wilds. Probably not smart but I like to run with minimal gear. And I have a hunters eye. And I'm dumb.....
Now I must warn you about the real perils of those two parks---Fucking moronic people. It is like nothing you have ever seen before. All the trips there have always been cut short by either myself or DW as we just needed to bail out. You will go crazy. I will never go back to Yellowstone in the summer. And sometimes by mid to late September you can have some big snow storms to deal with. I will go back to the Tetons just to do that run I described but then head to the Winds.
If you go you have to drive the Beartooth highway at the northeast corner. From Cooke City to Red Lodge. I'm sure Warden will agree it is one of the most spectacular mountain drives you can do.
On the subject of driving. It takes forever to drive around in there. Allow twice as much time as you would think to get anywhere. Something to do with fucking moronic people I think.
So go alone. Don't live in a protective bubble. I do a ton of solo outings even though I have plenty of folks that want to join me. Being alone out there is living! Much more primal. Much more satisfying. Feel lucky if you see a bear but just make sure to give it all the space you can.
Have a good trip.
Thank you so much for the replies. I really appreciate your perspectives and advice, especially because it gives me the kick in the pants I needed to not to miss out on some amazing scenery just because I would be solo and I should just take the proper precautions and run smart.
Northern - I did look at the Paintbrush and Cascade Canyon Loop as well as just doing the 14-mile out and back from Jenny Lake to Lake Solitude along Cascade Canyon. Is the Paintbrush Canyon portion something that shouldn't be missed versus just an out and back along Cascade Canyon to Lake Solitude? I will be taking my time during any big climbs or descents due to my lack of experience on trails out west and I'm not trying to rush it. We have planned on driving Beartooth Pass and will be staying outside of the park in Idaho while in YNP. Do you have any trail recommendations in the western or southern portion of YNP? For Grand Teton, we will be in Colter Bay, which doesn't seem very far from the trails out of Jenny Lake.
I did hear something about how the crowds are larger this summer than ever before, so it will be interesting to see how it is. I am really looking forward to the trip, the traffic on the roads/tourist congestion not withstanding.
Thanks again everyone.
The memory of an old guy...yikes! After awhile a lot of those mountain runs have kind of blended together with only a somewhat selective memory, sad.
Before I do forget there are a couple things i forgot to say on the earlier post.
A prerequisite for any run in Grizzly country is watching the movie "The Edge" with Baldwin and Hopkins. Great impromptu trail running scenes. it will get you psyched.
When in the area that time of the year you must find a place that serves fresh Huckleberry pie.
Also when around the Tetons try to get down to Wilson and have pizza and a beer at the Mangy Moose.
I would try to do the loop of Cascade and Paintbrush if you can. Trailhead at String/Leigh lakes. It will be worth it. If you can't no biggie as an out/back on Cascade will still be an incredible run. I just love running those mountains above treeline. You will have stunning scenery.
There are other options south with the Death canyon and Granite canyon but I have not done those so can only assume they are beautiful and probably less traffic. The trails of the Teton high country are well used and are easy to follow. You won't get lost.
I have stayed at Colter Bay before but due to time constraints I never ran any of the short trails loops around there or across at Two Ocean lake. If you do please report back. Actually report back on any trail runs.
Near Ashton Idaho you would be able to access the Bechler region fromCave Falls road, I think the connects to the Grassy lake road going across the southwest boundary, I have never run there but have planned a couple trips in there that have just never happened. That's the area referred to as waterfall corner. Pretty wild and not too many people. Not sure of the distances for running but at Dunwoody falls on the Idaho line there is a nice soaking hot spring coming in at the pool of the falls. Supposed to be epic and I have badly wanted to get in there but not yet.
Most of my running has been up around Canyon village along with some other trails scattered around. Mt. Washburn, Mary Lake/Nez Pierce going east from near the geysers towards the Hayden valley. There have been a number of them but my memory... All runs for me in Yellowstone have been out and backs. Loops are generally pretty big in there but if you get into the Bechler area there are some options.
A couple other things--despite the intense crowds most folks never leave the blacktop or boardwlks. Some light dayhiking too but once you get a couple miles in there will only be an occasional backpacker or trout fisherman. Most backcountry use in there seems to head towards Heart Lake. Nice trail into there for running.
Stay on the trail around any bubbling or steaming areas. That stuff is effin' hot I can personally say.
Embrace the smell of sulphur.
Have to say all this talk has rekindled an interest to run the Cascade/Paintbrush loop again and couple that with a few days backpacking in the Bechler region. Maybe next year in early Sept.
Hey, have a great trip.
DW and I are heading out for a wedding in late September. We'll be staying in Jackson for a few days and then a few days at Signal Mountain Lodge (after recommendations from George and NH).
Have a great trip and post after you are done. We'll be running together, and I don't plan on carrying bear spray (but that may change if we hear of a lot of activity).
This report is wordy, but as a flatlander, to run in the mountains was exhilarating and breath-takingly gorgeous so I may go into too much detail.
The weather did not play very well with us and it rained quite a lot from the time I got there on Saturday through Wednesday. Thankfully I was still able to get in some good mileage at our various stops around the perimeter of Yellowstone during those days.
The area north of Gardiner along the Yellowstone river was great even though there weren't too many trails in the vicinity that I was aware of so I did some routes on dirt/gravel country roads with the Beartooth mountains in the background (beautiful).
Also, the area near Henry's Lake in Idaho west of Yellowstone was a great place to get some miles in on snowmobile/ATV dirt trails.
To piggy back on what Northern Harrier said, Yellowstone seems to be a little over-hyped while GTNP doesn't get as much attention. I would say that the Gallatin area is worth spending more time in than a lot of Yellowstone. Granted, I was only there for a few days so I may be missing a lot but that is just my opinion.
When we got to GTNP on Tuesday night, I realized that the rain and fog forecast for the next day would make my Cascade/Paintbrush loop a not very fun experience so I rescheduled my run for Thursday in hopes that the weather would be a little better. I ran the Hermitage Point trail in the Colter Bay area on Wednesday to warm up for Thursday's run - the trail winds along Jackson Lake with the Tetons on the other side, it has nice single track trails through the woods and beautiful scenery. I recommend Colter Bay if you're camping in GTNP for the trails and view of the Tetons - even though the campground itself is pretty crowded, the trails were never crowded.
I woke up Thursday morning to dense fog, but the thunderstorms weren't supposed to come rolling in until the afternoon so I decided to chance it. I didn't want to get too early of a start because of the report of bear activity along the Paintbrush trail due to huckleberry season. I started around 8:30 and began with the route going up Cascade and coming down Paintbrush. I also opted in to take a pair of trekking poles in case I needed them go across the snow on the divide. I used my Osprey Rev6 so I had 1.5L of Tailwind and some purification tablets to refill from one of the streams in the canyons. I had my bear spray in my jacket pocket which wasn't as annoying as I thought it would be and I barely noticed it.
I started at String Lake and ran along the banks of Jenny Lake past the boat dock and up to Inspiration Point, which unfortunately was covered with fog so the view wasn't quite as picturesque as it otherwise would be.
Once I hit the North Fork of the canyon going up to Lake Solitude I came up on a huge moose standing right on the side of the trail. For many of you, seeing animals like that may be a regular experience but as someone who only sees deer, it was pretty cool to be in his presence for a few moments.
Once I got out of the woods of the North Fork the canyon just opens up and the fog was thankfully lifting. I was in awe of the grandness of it all and then I turn around and there is the cathedral group - just breathtaking. I can't describe how amazing it was to be finally seeing something I have only seen in pictures and realize it is just me out there doing something I love in such a beautiful setting.
I made it up to Lake Solitude (9 miles from String Lake) in a little over 2 hours. I was feeling really good with the climb from around 6,700 ft to 9,300 ft. I took a break to eat and change out of my pants to shorts and get the poles out for the ~3 miles up 1,400 ft to the divide.
For most of you that elevation may be nothing, but for someone who runs at sea level, once I hit 10,000 ft I was definitely feeling it. It took me about an hour and fifteen minutes to make it up to the divide, but it was worth it to get those 360 views. I took some time up there to take pictures and check in with my family before heading down the snow and ice on the other side into Paintbrush. I was painfully slow going down the snow and boulder fields, but the poles were extremely helpful for maintaining my balance with rocks that were apt to give way and any slushy snow that wanted to cave in. I wore my Altra Lone Peaks which gave me surprisingly good traction with the snow and I didn't have too many slippage issues. I passed a good number of groups going up the divide from Paintbrush that had been camping near Holly Lake so it was a little surprising to see the amount of traffic on the trail after hearing from rangers how many more hikers use Cascade rather than Paintbrush. It is all downhill coming through Paintbrush and with a side trip with a snack break at Holly Lake it took 3 hours for me to get from the top of the divide back to String Lake.
All in all, it was around 19 miles with 4,100 ft of elevation gain in a little over 6 hours and takes the cake for the most beautiful run I have ever done. My family was waiting with my 2 year old son napping on a rock overlooking String Lake, and I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day to do that run. I highly recommend that loop to anyone spending time in the Yellowstone/GTNP area as it offers great views of the Tetons, Jackson Lake, and the glacier carved canyons.
As far as my original concerns about bears and running alone, those were completely unfounded. As Northern Harrier said, there are lots of people that hike those trails by themselves and I passed people probably every 15 minutes or so. It was a nice insurance policy to have the bear spray in my jacket the whole time, but I never once saw a bear. I loved the experience of doing something like that by myself and it was a great primer for running at higher elevations. I know many runs out West begin at my run's peak elevation and climb thousands of feet more, so it is a much higher standard that I would have to achieve to be able to do any runs like that, but a girl can dream.
As a positive take away, I didn't feel any soreness the next day and was able to go up to Amphitheater Lake from Lupine Meadows trailhead, which I would recommend as a great shorter run/hike just down the road from Jenny Lake (10 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 3,000 ft) with beautiful trail and great vistas of the meadows below. I didn't get many pictures from that hike because a hail storm was closing in and the ranger warned us to get up and down as quickly as possible, so I didn't break for many photo opportunities. I'm now hooked on the possibilities of other runs out and can't wait to get back to that area sometime next year. In the meantime, I guess if I want to work on hills it will be running the bridges over to the beaches or up parking garage ramps.
Pictures to come!
Awesome job! A nice read and a little trip down thru my memory. Cool. I have refocused my training knowing I am running quickly out of time to do some more epic runs so I plan on just redoing a few that I know from the past were/are incredible. The Paintbrush/Cascade loop is set for a redo next year along with another run near there.
Sounds like it was a great vacation.
Look forward to seeing some pics and you know you could post here more often too.