Yellowstone National Park - Wyoming
Bunsen Peak, Wildlife, Gardner River, Deep Canyon, Osprey Falls
9.3 miles out and back
My GPS tracked that we gained 350 feet and lost almost 1200 feet in elevation on the way out. Keep in mind that you will have to climb the elevation to get back out.
Yellowstone entrance fee
Bring at least a liter per person. More if in the heat of summer.
Spring, Summer, Fall
There is almost no shade on this hike.
Well traveled for the most part. The switchbacks do get very narrow with loose footing and small fallen trees to climb over. Caution is recommended on the descent.
At trail head
In Mammoth Hot Springs
This one is long enough that I would pack a small lunch to enjoy at the falls.
Yes for kids that can handle the long day and exposed switchbacks.
Trail Head:44.93227 N, 110.72813 W
Osprey Falls:44.92902 N, 110.68070 W
Osprey Falls is in my opinion the best overall hike in Yellowstone. You get a very powerful waterfall, sweeping mountain views, the chance to see wildlife, a deep canyon, and a river. This is a great area!
You will start your hike at the Bunsen Peak trail head which is a couple miles south of Mammoth Hot Springs. Keep in mind that this is bear territory. You will want bear spray. It is wise not to hike alone.
From the trail head you will follow the Bunsen Peak road. The road is no longer open to vehicles but you can ride bikes on the portion of the trail that follows the road which would make it a quicker trip. We did this hike in late May on a slightly higher than average snow year and it was not a problem. We were quickly greeted with some pretty snow melt ponds.
When on the road the hike is relatively flat. Overall my GPS showed the we gained 350 feet and lost almost 1200 feet getting to the falls. 800 feet of that is done very shortly on a set of switchbacks. For the beginning though, the hiking is easy and happy.
You will next come to a permanent small lake that we saw many different waterfowl on.
Bunsen Peak is always visible to your left for the majority of the hike.
Yow will want to keep your eyes peeled throughout the hike. We saw deer, elk, a badger, ground squirrels, sandhill cranes, a grouse, and many other birds.
The road will soon enter the trees that are slowly regrowing from the 1988 fires.
The trail will soon come right by the edge of Sheepeater Canyon looking down on the area above Osprey Falls.
Be sure to turn around every once in a while and enjoy the awesome views of the Gallatin Range and Bunsen Peak.
In no time you will reach the signed turn for Osprey Falls where you will leave the road. There is a rack to lock your bikes. They are not allowed beyond this point.
You will follow the edge of the canyon for a short while before beginning the 800 foot descent into the canyon. Some parts of the switchbacks are very narrow and the footing can be loose. Be sure to keep an eye on children and be safe and take your time. Its really not as bad as other publications have made it sound. The reward is so worth the effort.
Soon you will get your first sound and sight of Osprey Falls.
This is one fall where pictures and videos do no justice. It is extremely powerful as the entire Gardner River plunges 150 feet. It was so misty that is was extremely difficult to get any decent photos without soaking your camera. By the time we were done it looked like I had jumped into a lake. Plan on spending at least a half hour here. Its an awesome experience. We ate a small lunch near the falls and it was really a great time. Keep an eye on any kids around the falls because it is very slick and muddy.
Here is a video attempting to show the falls. You can see how misty it was.
You will need to return the same way you came. There are options to continue on the Bunsen Peak road if you can set up a shuttle.