A Self-Guided Ghost Tour of Yellowstone National Park
Based on the locations and ghost stories featured in Spooky Yellowstone
“Yellowstone National Park is amazing! Yellowstone National Park is also terrifying. Slip into one of the lovely, colorful pools in the Geyser Basins and you’re cooked. Literally. Yet the beauty of Yellowstone captures my imagination as no other place I’ve seen. Mud pots, fumaroles, geysers, hot springs—where else can you find so many volcanic features in one region? Wandering alone in Yellowstone ain’t no picnic, as Truman Everts could testify when he became separated from the Washburn Expedition in 1870. Even tough old trappers like Jim Bridger walked carefully when exploring this “Wonderland”. Add ghost sightings to the mix of dangerous beasts like bull elk and grizzly bears (not to mention life-threatening volcanic features) and the Yellowstone region may truly be classified as a Very Spooky Place. I hope you enjoy this self-guided ghost tour as much as I did, when I first drove through Yellowstone National Park researching its folklore and ghost stories.” -S.E. Schlosser
Stop 1: Lower Geyser Basin and Old Faithful Inn
Start your self-guided ghost tour of Yellowstone National Park Lower Loop with a walk around the boardwalk trails around Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin. Then visit the Old Faithful Inn. Grab a seat outside on the Mezzanine balcony, which is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a lost little boy, while you watch Old Faithful geyser erupt.
Wander through the main lobby of the Old Faithful Inn and look up toward the rooftop balcony. There is a small orchestra box at the very top. According to the old Campfire Tale, this is the place where the headless bride begins her descent into the hotel. [Spooky Yellowstone Chapter 4: The Headless Bride]
Remember to pick up a picnic lunch at the Inn’s Deli before heading to the next place on your self-guided ghost tour: the Fountain Paint Pots.
Stop 2: Fountain Paint Pots
Head north on US 89/Grand Loop Road and stop at the Fountain Paint Pots. Walk the famous Fountain Paint Pots boardwalk, which takes you past all four kinds of Yellowstone’s thermal features: geysers, mud pots, hot springs and fumeroles.
If you look northeast past Fountain Geyser, you will see the place where the haunted Fountain Hotel once stood. According to Yellowstone folklore, a phantom in room 203 used to ring the bell every night at 6 p.m – even when the lodge was closed for the winter! [Spooky Yellowstone Chapter 10: The Ghost in Room 203]
Bonus Stop: Firehole Lake Drive/Lower Geyser Basin
If you have extra time, turn right out of the Fountain Paint Pots parking lot and then left onto Firehole Lake Drive. This short drive will take you past many thermal features of the Fire Lake portion of the Lower Geyser Basin. If you have extra time, turn right out of the Fountain Paint Pots parking lot and then left onto Firehole Lake Drive.This short drive will take you past many thermal features of the Fire Lake portion of the Lower Geyser Basin.
Back in the 1800s, a man fell into one of the cone geysers in the Lower Geyser Basin – similar to the White Dome Geyser you will see on your tour – and he lived to tell the tale, which was written up in the local newspaper. [Spooky Yellowstone Chapter 20: The Miracle]
When you finish the drive, turn right on US 89N and drive up to the Nez Perce Picnic Area.
Stop 3: Nez Perce Picnic Area
Less than five minutes north of the Fountain Paint Pots is the Nez Perce Picnic Area. Head north on US 89/Grand Loop Road after your stop at the Fountain Paint Pots. Take the first left onto Fountain Flats Drive. The Nez Perce Picnic Area parking lot is immediately on your right hand side. Less than five minutes north of the Fountain Paint Pots is the .Head north on US 89/Grand Loop Road after your stop at the Fountain Paint Pots.Take the first left onto Fountain Flats Drive.The Nez Perce Picnic Area parking lot is immediately on your right hand side.
The Firehole River is to your left as you enter the parking lot. Many years ago, this area was the location of the Firehole Hotel. Mattie and her husband were caretakers at the hotel, and Mattie passed away there from tuberculosis. The spirits of Mattie and her husband have reputedly been seen walking beside the river in this spot. Eat your lunch at one of the tables near the river as you keep an eye out for ghosts. After lunch, you can visit Mattie’s tombstone, which is to one side of the restrooms. [Spooky Yellowstone Chapter 1: Mattie’s Grave]
Stop 4: Yellowstone Lake
Continue on US 89 North until you reach Norris Canyon Road. Turn right, and follow this road until you reach the end. Turn right on Grand Canyon Loop road and drive through the Hayden Valley, keeping a sharp lookout for Bison, Coyote and Wolves. Continue on US 89 North until you reach Norris Canyon Road.Turn right, and follow this road until you reach the end.Turn right on Grand Canyon Loop road and drive through the Hayden Valley, keeping a sharp lookout for Bison, Coyote and Wolves.
When you reach Fishing Bridge, turn left on East Entrance Road, which goes over the famous Fishing Bridge and along the shore of Yellowstone Lake. Framed on the east by the Absaroka Range, the waters of Yellowstone Lake are the lifeblood for a large network of plants and animals. Trumpeter swans and moose thrive on the aquatic growth in shallow waters along the shore. Trout are drawn to zooplankton living in these waters. The fish are food for pelicans, otters, eagles, and other wild life. In particular, keep a watch out for grizzly bears, which are often seen in the vicinity of Fishing Bridge.
Drive approximately 9 miles east along the East Entrance Road and Yellowstone Lake heading toward Cody, Wyoming. You will pass the pullout on the right-hand side of the road overlooking Steamboat Point, and then the Sedge Bay Picnic Area, both great areas to get out, stretch your legs, and enjoy picturesque views of the lake.
After the picnic area, keep your eyes peeled for the right-hand turn that leads into the parking lot for the Nine-Mile Trailhead. Park in the lot and wander through the lakeside meadow full of fire-burnt trees, where the events of the fire occasionally replay themselves for visitors just prior to a storm. [Spooky Yellowstone Chapter 14: Fire!] For the more adventurous, take a short group hike along the Nine Mile Trail, which borders the lakeshore.
Before heading toward your next stop at Lake Hotel, be sure to take a quick right turn from the parking lot and drive a few hundred yards to the turnoff for Lake Butte Overlook. The road will climb a hill to a fantastic overlook of Yellowstone Lake. This is a particularly fine place to watch the sunset over the water.
Stop 5: Lake Yellowstone Hotel
Whether you are leaving from the Nine Mile Trailhead (LH turn) or Lake Butte Overlook (RH turn), you are going to go west on the East Entrance road, retracing your steps toward Fishing Bridge. When you reach the T-intersection, turn left onto US 20 West toward Lake Village. Follow signs to the Lake Hotel. The turn will be on your left hand side about 1.5 miles down the road. Whether you are leaving from the Nine Mile Trailhead (LH turn) or Lake Butte Overlook (RH turn), you are going to go west on the East Entrance road, retracing your steps toward Fishing Bridge.When you reach the T-intersection, turn left onto US 20 West toward Lake Village. Follow signs to the Lake Hotel. The turn will be on your left hand side about 1.5 miles down the road.
The Lake Yellowstone Hotel and Cabins first opened in 1891 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Wander through the lobby of this historic building – reputed to be haunted by a phantom bell captain and other ghosts . [Spooky Yellowstone Chapter 2: I Want To Go Home]
Enjoy the exhibits and gift store in the lobby. Sit in a comfy chair overlooking an amazing view of the lake. If you have time, eat in the Main Dining Room (Advanced reservations recommended.) Then take a walk along the lake shore in front of the hotel and listen for the mysterious “Lake Music” – a humming sound similar to the sound of people voices whispering or music playing in the background. The lake sounds have been recorded by visitors dating back to the 1800s.
Bonus Stop: Bay Bridge Marina/Stevenson Island
If you have time, stop by the Bay Bridge Marina, a few miles south of Lake Village, and take a one-hour guided tour of Yellowstone Lake. The scenic cruise departs Bridge Bay Marina and heads out and around the haunted Stevenson Island, where you will see the remains of the SS E.C. Waters, and hear her story and a bit about the “colorful” man who had her built. Stevenson Island is the location where the body of a drowned frontier man sometimes appears lying facedown on the beach. [Spooky Yellowstone Chapter 9: The Drowned Man] While on the water, passengers are also treated to the history of the area while watching for eagles, ospreys, and shoreline wanderers such as waterfowl, and occasionally elk and bison.
Stop 6: West Thumb Geyser Basin
Turn Left on US 20 West out of Lake Village and drive approximately 11 miles to the West Thumb Geyser Basin. The large circular bay of West Thumb is an excellent example of a volcanic caldera. A powerful volcanic explosion approximately 174,000 years ago caused the earth’s crust to collapse, creating the West Thumb caldera. The depression produced by the volcano later filled with water to become a large bay of Yellowstone Lake.
Take a walk along the boardwalk through the geyser basin, which features colorful hot springs, bubbling mudpots, twin geysers, and hissing fumeroles and the famous fishing cone (where early visitors to the national park once caught their fish and cooked it right in the same spot!) The geyser basin trail is right on the shore of Lake Yellowstone. Surveys of the lake bottom in the 1990s documented hot springs and hydrothermal vents just offshore in West Thumb. Look closely—you may see their swirling patterns in the water.
People have long been drawn to West Thumb. Native Americans favored campsites in this area as they hunted bison in the summer. Early explorers like Jim Bridger camped here while hunting and trapping in this region, and brought marvelous tales of glass mountains, billowing geysers and hot springs to the incredulous ears of their fellow settlers, who thought them mad. [Spooky Yellowstone Chapter 24: Not Far Below] Later, scientific expeditions would corroborate these tales of colorful hot springs mentioned by mountain men, which resulted in the creation of the world’s very first National Park. [Spooky Yellowstone Chapter 24: Not Far Below]
Later, Truman Everts himself passed through West Thumb after becoming separated from his exploration party. The beleaguered townsman managed to survive alone in this wilderness for Thirty-seven days prior to his rescue. [Spooky Yellowstone Chapter 8: Thirty-Seven Days]
The West Thumb caldera lies within an even greater caldera, the Yellowstone Caldera, which is one of the world’s largest and encompasses the central and southern portions of the park. Much of this self-guided ghost tour has taken place within the boundaries of this huge caldera. The Yellowstone caldera resulted from a massive eruption roughly 640,000 years ago. Since that time, numerous lava flows have filled the caldera, to create the lovely and haunting landscape that is called Yellowstone National Park.NOTE: West Thumb is the final stop of Yellowstone National Park Self-Guided Ghost Tour #1. When you are done exploring this colorful and surreal landscape, please proceed back to Old Faithful Inn or to your next vacation destination.
Read more Yellowstone ghost stories by S.E. Schlosser in Spooky Yellowstone!