Bring binoculars on this 21-mile shuttle hike across Yellowstone’s Central Plateau; you’ll shadow a major bison migration route used by the only direct descendents of America’s great herds. Begin on the Mary Mountain Trail and skirt the forested northern fringe of Hayden Valley. At 4 miles, just past Violet Creek, the trail climbs Mary Mountain to a view of the valley’s western entrance, a major bison gathering spot. Three miles later, you’ll enter a thick lodgepole pine alley atop the Central Plateau. A rustic Park Service cabin fronts 20-acre Mary Lake, a good spot to camp. Descend from here and emerge from the pine forest into an open meadow along angler-friendly Nez Perce Creek. The final 2 miles traverses Culex Basin, where bison congregate at Morning Mist Springs. Exit at the trailhead just south of the Nez Perce Creek bridge.
Info: Park news and trail updates: ynp.blogspot.com.
Backcountry office: (307) 344-2163; www.nps.gov/yell.
-Hike provided by Andrew Dean Nystrom, author of Top Trails: Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks (Wilderness Press).