Purple Mountain in Yellowstone National Park has a nice steady grade all the way up to a great lookout of the Madison River area looking south towards Old Faithful. While the trail spends its entire time in the trees, it’s pleasant hiking and you do get some views out along the way with a very nice vantage at the top.
Just west of Madison Junction on then Grand Loop Road lies the signed trailhead of Purple Mountain. I had a perfect, sunny day to climb to the top. The trail starts out level through a denser stand of lodgepole, but quickly changes to a gradual climb in open airy forest. The aspects that are easter facing tend to be more moist giving you different plant life such as whortleberry whereas the south and west facing slopes tend to be rockier and hotter.
As you gain elevation, the trees space out, giving you views down to the Gibbon and Madison rivers, Terrace Spring, and out towards Old Faithful. Steam rises in pockets with the most obvious being the springs at Fountain Paint Pots in the Lower Geyser Basin.
After working your way back up a drainage, you reach a switchback that signals that you’ve basically gained all of the elevation you will need and the trail traverses along a nice, level ridge. You pass what appears to be the cone of the mountain which is pretty sweet, then through a patch of trees to Purple Mountain’s nice overlook. While snacking, you can enjoy great views of the previously mentioned rivers and basins as well as views of distant mountains including Mt. Washburn and the Teton Range.
Overall, a nice hike to a nice overlook. Forest birding is great and there is a great variety of flowers.