“A great downhill trail through the Golden Gate and Hoodoos to the Mammoth Terraces.
— Gianluca Rossi
Fall Colors · Hot Spring · Views · Wildlife
This is bear country, so check for closures or restrictions before you begin. Buffalo and elk also frequent parts of this trail. Keep your distance - the NPS recommends staying at least 25 yards away from buffalo/elk and 100 yards away from bears.
This 3.9-mile, mostly downhill section of the Howard Eaton Trail (HET) from Swan Lake Flat to Mammoth Hot Springs is the most enjoyable of the few remaining sections of the historic HET. Dedicated in 1923, the 157-mile HET was built to accommodate saddle-horse parties touring the park after automobiles pushed them off the highway. The NPS built the HET quickly by “joining abandoned old roads, connecting existing game trails and making a trail route through open meadows with guide posts and signs.” The trail was named in honor of Howard Eaton, the “Dean” of Yellowstone saddle-horse guides.
The HET begins .2 miles from the from the Glen Creek Trailhead which begins on the west side of the Mammoth to Norris Road, just south of Rustic Falls. From its well-marked trailhead, the HET quickly enters the forest and climbs 150 feet in the first 1/2 mile. Near the highpoint, views become good of Bunsen Peak
to the east (with impressive Cathedral Rock protruding to the north) and Swan Lake Flat back to the south (with the Gallatin Range beyond). Directly below you the highway passes through the "Golden Gate" so named because of the golden-colored lichens that cover the canyon walls.
Continuing north from the highpoint, the trail narrows and hugs the rock on the left as it begins its 1000-foot descent to Mammoth. At the 1.2 mile mark, the trail crosses through a section of The Hoodoos, a jumble of towering gray limestone blocks, also called the Silver Gate. These travertine blocks are remains of ancient hot spring terraces (similar to Mammoth Hot Springs) that over thousands of years broke away and cascaded down from the top of Terrace Mountain above you on the left. They were dubbed "Hoodoos," because of the rock's ghostly shapes.
At 2.6 miles, the HET crosses the Snow Pass Trail
, and at 2.8 miles it breaks out of the trees and enters the upper Mammoth Terrace area. Watch carefully for the orange markers that will lead you through this hot spring area. At the 3.2-mile mark, the trail approaches Upper Terrace Drive near impressive Orange Spring Mound. The trail continues just above the road passed the remnants of New Highland Terrace and at the 3.5-mile mark turns left and leaves the road. Soon the trail passes beautiful Narrow Gage Springs & Terrace, then drops more than 200 feet in the final .3 miles to end at a junction with the Beaver Ponds Loop
Trail. From there, turn right and continue .2 miles to Mammoth.