Blacktail Deer Creek Trail

Blacktail Deer Creek runs through the northern range of Yellowstone National Park. This area features sprawling meadows full of grass, sagebrush, and ponds. It’s perfect habitat for a wide variety of the park’s wildlife. The Blacktail Creek Trail follows the creek across meadows, then down as it cuts through layers of rock to the Yellowstone River.

I crossed the river and continued along to Knowles Falls which is a nice cascade and a great spot for lunch and to turn around.

Due to its wide open nature, there is scant shade. I started hiking out in the sun and it was a toasty walk. I always get excited when hiking across big meadows. I love open views and the chances to see animals are high. As I passed ponds at the beginning of the trail, I spotted a few birds, a couple of garter snakes and a couple of bison in the distance.

I traversed across the meadow where the trail climbed a small hill and veered away from the creek. The trail went in between two fenced in areas, presumably there to see the difference between grassland that is frequently grazed vs land that isn’t.

Once on the top of this little knoll, the meadow gradually worked its way down across more sprawling meadows and passed the junction with the Rescue Creek Trail. The trail came along the creek again, looking down on it, passed a campsite, then dropped down alongside the creek.

Trees shaded the trail in some sections while willows and other shrubbery lined the stream. From here, I was still able to look around to the surrounding hillsides. Small forest birds such as the Townsend’s Solitaire hopped in the trees.

I eventually came to a cool waterfall that cascaded over a layer of basalt which is lava that cools in cubical columns. From here, the creek began to drop steeply and the trail followed suit. The drainage here was sprawling and I could see the crusty layer of basalt all the way across the ravine.

The trail entered in the trees as it descended, then popped out by the river. A wonderful suspended pack bridge gave passage over the green waters. An osprey sat on top of the towers. A small side trail crossed over Blacktail Deer Creek to two rustic patrol cabins and access to the river’s shore. This spot was 4 miles in and would serve as a great place to turn around, however, I continued on.

Once on the other side of the river, I passed through a dry forest to a nice meadow where I met up with the Yellowstone River Trail. At the junction a bison carcass lay in pieces. The carcass wasn’t super old, but old enough to have been picked clean. I took a left on the Yellowstone River Trail to take it downstream. I passed through juniper and ponderosa pine as well as past a few prickly pear cactuses which was a bit of a surprise for me.

The trail dropped down to Crevice Lake which is a beautiful lake separated from the Yellowstone River by a small ridge. It’s another unique feature found on this trail. From there the trail dropped alongside the Yellowstone River for a lovely stretch.

From there I climbed up a bit to Crevice Creek that splashed and played over large boulders, then climbed higher up the ridge. Meanwhile below, the Yellowstone River entered into a tighter ravine where it began to splash its way to Knowles Falls.

After a little climb and a short traverse, the trail switchbacked through boulders down to a nice perch overlooking the river. Here, Knowles Falls roars out of the canyon and you get a nice view of it. I had lunch, then started working my way back up the hill. Once at the top of the hill, I took off from the trail and bushwhacked my way down to the top of the falls.

While some of the bushwhack was a breeze, a few sections were a bit of an adventure, made all the more exciting by thorns from plenty of wild rose bushes. The falls were powerful close up and made it worth the extra effort.

From there, I went back up on the trail and headed back up to the top of the large, sprawling meadows, passing bison, back to my car.

A really cool hike. It spends a lot of its time level, gaining and losing elevation in a couple of spots. Open spaces, powerful rivers and the chance to see some great birds and other wildlife make it a great hike.

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