While the namesake “specimens” on Specimen Ridge in Yellowstone National Park aren’t accessible via the Specimen Ridge Trail, a steep, unofficial trail takes you to a forest of petrified trees. Well, they’re mostly stumps now, but they are intact and fantastic with beautiful views as a bonus.
It was getting later in the day and I had time for a shorter hike before the sun set. I had read about some petrified trees on Specimen Ridge and wasn’t sure if it was an appropriate hike for my Day Hikes of Yellowstone National Park map I was making. Once I started hiking on it, I realized that this unofficial trail would be too confusing to try and write down on my map, but it was worth exploring.
The trail starts out in between the Specimen Ridge trailhead and the bridge over the Lamar River to the east. A sign at an interpretive pullout simply says, “Trailhead”, anonymously tells you where to begin. I started hiking on what appeared to be an old service road that makes it to a hump, then disappears. A combination bison and human trail takes off from there and heads up the ridge.
I was in heaven gaining elevation along this open, sagebrush meadow. A bull bison wandered around the area and I came across Dusky Grouse perched on large erratics (large boulders deposited by glaciers) and grazing through the tall grasses. The trail went into a stand of trees where it forked. The easy trail went to the left, but the book said to go steep and to the right at the junctions. I did just that and began passing numerous petrified stumps. As the trail wrapped to the right, it had extremely steep sections with loose footing, but was short and leveled out to a rocky section covered in petrified trees.
One prominent specimen served as a beacon to a variety of trees and stumps littering the hillside. Up from the prominent tree, a large tree was laying on its side. There is a trail heading back down the valley that is another route, but misses all of the stumps in the trees. Many turn around here.
I continued up the ridgeline and stayed right when coming to a fork instead of heading all the way up onto Specimen Ridge. This trail wrapped around this ridge I was on and dumped me to a huge redwood stump. The view from here is stunning and two taller trees over 10′ stand below. The footing is horrendous if you want to explore below, but as you gaze around, you see many more trees.
The daylight was fading as the sun headed to the horizon. I turned around and worked my way through the steep sections, then sauntered through the golden meadows, past the grouse, the bison, and ancient trees, back to my car.