Hiking into Osprey Fall is a visual extravaganza at the bottom of a deep canyon in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA.
Spectacular Osprey Fall in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA
The Osprey is a large bird. A lot of them hang out at Osprey Fall in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA.
The trail-head for Osprey Fall is south of Golden Gate Pass and Rustic Falls. Along the way two buffalo are bumping heads in a territorial dispute.
Today's hike will be an endurance test in very warm conditions into a deep canyon for the 10 mile (16 KM) return hike into Osprey Fall. The spectacular and secluded waterfall resides at the bottom of a deep canyon surrounded by Sheepeater Cliffs in Gardiner's Hole along the Gardiner River in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. The hike is an inverse climb in an area of vastly different terrain from the southeast geothermal quadrant yielding hot spring experiences like the Old Faithful Geyser Basin.
The morning is mercifully cool so an additional layer and glove liners are required for the first hour. The temperature will be in the mid 90 degrees F (36 degrees C) later in the afternoon. The good quality access trail is the Bunsen Peak Road Trail.
At the beginning, the hike progresses through expansive marsh land with mirror-surfaced ponds teeming with birds, and providing perfect reflections in the early morning sun. Hiking continues through predominately evergreen forest, occasionally punctuated by brightly colored fall foliage. At the edge of Gardiner Canyon, the Sheepeater Cliffs are impressive. The Gardiner River occupies the far-away bottom of Gardiner Canyon but there is no visual evidence of Osprey Fall from the top.
A rapidly warming day requires progressive layering down. The traverse along the top of the canyon edge is through an old burn area before arriving at the rustic trail which will drop 800 ft (255 M) to the bottom of the canyon on a long series of switchbacks.
This rugged trail frequently requires climbing over dead fall onto treacherous volcanic rock and gravel that makes stable footing difficult to maintain on the steep slopes. Hiking pants turn black along the climb over charcoal trees left by the 1988 forest fire.
On the approach to the river the trail does a long traverse, first one way and then the other, until the surprise arrival at secluded Osprey Fall. The impressive waterfall is first heard then a short climb out from the forest makes a tight approach to the roaring waterfall at the main overlook. Tucked into this dark, narrow canyon, the Gardiner River plunges 150 ft (48 M) over a steep ledge creating a fine, cooling mist and feeding abundant plant life on the living walls of the canyon. Sound reverberating from surrounding rock walls completes the sensory experience.
This incredibly beautiful place is more than worthy of the time taken to enjoy lunch in the sun, and relaxation while enjoying the sight and sound of the powerful Gardiner River in free fall. The intermittent mist is cooling. Negative ionization is energizing. Reluctantly the time arrives to leave Osprey Fall for the ascent of steep switchbacks back to the canyon edge. The air temperature is now oppressively hot.
The return hike proceeds on the same route for the ascent and on alternate trail along the flank of Bunsen Peak before the day-end drive back to Gardiner, Montana for a swim in the hotel pool to counteract the heat. Following an excellent ‘down-home” dinner at the Town Café, a walk around town and a stop at the grocery shop for provisions completes another successful and spectacular hiking day in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA.
The classic quotation of the day is "I'm a lot smarter when you're not around".