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Posted by Rob ( on 23:30:05 06/03/14

In Reply to: Day Hikes posted by JimR


The hike up Avalanche is mercifully short (about 2 miles one way), but it's steep as all get out. Think Bunsen, but taller and steeper. Or, perhaps more accurately, think Bunsen but taller and without any of the switchbacks. It's significantly more intense than Washburn, but still perfectly manageable if you have plenty of time to take it easy and rest. The trail tends to get lost in the snow in a lot of places early in the season, so it's nice to wait until July or August when it melts. And there are some spots near the top where it gets a little rocky and the trail can become hard to find. It's not difficult to get back on the right track, though (just keep going up!). The view from the top is absolutely stunning. Nowhere else in the park can you get such an epic vista of the high mountains, Yellowstone Lake, etc., with such a short hike. Steep and tiring, but definitely worth it!

Electric is like Avalanche Peak on steroids, and with an 8-mile approach. This is by far my favorite hike in the park, but it's definitely not for the faint of heart. I've done it twice as a day hike and once as an over-nighter...the day hike was a cool experience just for the challenge of it, but the over-nighter was much more enjoyable. I highly recommend it, and there's a couple sites right by the base of the mountain that make this a really convenient option.

As for the hike itself, the 8-mile approach is a gorgeous hike through multiple "zones" - sage brush flats, sunny hillsides, forests, and a couple really beautiful meadows. It's steadily uphill all the way, but it's not steep and you can make pretty good time if you're a strong hiker. And don't forget the bug spray, because the skeeters often get pretty thick near the base of the mountain.

The real challenge with Electric is the last couple miles: ridiculously steep, straight up the mountainside (no switchbacks). The officially maintained trail ends near the base of the mountain, but there's well-worn use trails pretty much all the way up. There's multiple paths that all lead to the top, so take your pick. When in doubt, veer left (away from the sheer cliffs on the Eastern face). After what seems like an eternity of absurdly steep hiking, you reach the false summit (or the "shoulder" of the mountain) and get your first glimpse of the REAL summit. And here's where the fun begins! I've heard conflicting reports about the easiest line to the summit, but it looks like any route you take is going to require at least Class 3 scrambling. There's a series of loose rocky towers that stand between you and the summit. Apparently, there's a way to bypass one or two of them by following a trail below and to the left of them. Being a climber, though, I've opted for the more challenging and exposed route straight over the top of them every time I've climbed Electric, but that one's pretty sketchy and I can't recommend it in good conscience! There's plenty of room to move around, but a lot of loose rock and some pretty frightening drop-offs if you screw up.

If you do decide to take on this beast, though, the reward is one of the most fantastic views in the park (right up there with Avalanche in my mind). You get a 360-degree view overlooking the Gallatins, the Northern Range, Gardiner, Mammoth, etc. Bunsen looks like a little pimple on the ground, haha! And on a clear day, you can see the Tetons way off to the south. There's also a little box on the summit where you can leave something if you wish (there's always a nice collection of Yellowstone employee IDs, old driver's licenses, old student IDs, notes, pictures, etc. in the box).

I'll post some pictures, too, so you can get a better idea of what Electric entails. This first shot is from the spur trail, just after it turns and heads up the mountain.

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