One of Yellowstone National Park’s lesser-traveled routes, this 9.4-mile backcountry trek travels through young lodgepole forests to Phantom Fumarole—a steaming vent on the Pitchstone Plateau. From the trailhead, hike northwest toward the base of the plateau. After a flat, 200-foot stretch, the trail’s steepest section of climbing begins: you’ll gain 500 feet in half a mile.
At the top of the climb, the trail winds west, passing lodgepole forests burned during the 1988 wildfires (many of the new trees are 8 to 10 feet tall) and the glassy, black volcanic rocks that give Pitchstone Plateau its name. After 2.3 miles, hike across the first of several conifer-ringed meadows that dot the route. From here, it’s another 2.3 miles to the steaming pools of Phantom Fumarole. Study the scorched soil for interesting patterns created by the intense subterranean heat, then turn around for the trip back to the trailhead.
MORE PARK INFO Yellowstone National Park, (307) 344-7381; nps.gov/yell/
-Mapped by Jason Kauffman