Laurel Lopez

Definitely a favorite!

Very few things get me more excited about a backpacking trip than heading for a destination that includes a soak in a natural hot springs. There is just something cathartic about dropping my pack and shedding my clothes to soak my tired legs and aching shoulders in a rough pool of steaming thermal water. Dunanda Falls is in a secluded southwest corner of Yellowstone National Park. The park's first superintendent, Horace Albright, called it Cascade Corner for its wealth of waterfalls. It’s roughly a nine-mile hike from the Bechler Ranger Station, so we headed for Yellowstone in the early afternoon on October 25, hoping to hit the trailhead with enough daylight to make camp. The trail wound through a stand of pines and, the smells of the forest stirred my senses. The trail was easy underfoot and the miles seemed to vanish as we chatted and laughed. We reached a fork in the trail and headed left along the Boundary Creek trail. A few miles more and we broke through the tree line to see the vast expanse that is Bechler Meadows. Bechler Meadows are some of the largest and most beautiful meadows in Yellowstone National Park. They are also teeming with marshes created by a confluence of creeks and streams that crisscross the meadow. Here we were forced to slow our pace a bit, skirting a few boggy patches as we made our way through the waving grass. We paused only once… just long enough to determine the “moose” looming next to the trail was just a stump playing tricks with the fading light. One amazing sunset, a river ford, a few more miles, and a log bridge brought us to our assigned campsite a few minutes after the darkness had settled in the valley. We set up camp in the dark, then set off up the trail another mile--mile and half--to find the hot springs. The hiking trail to Dunanda Falls takes you past Scarf Falls and to the top of Dunanda. The hot springs fed pools are located at the base of the falls, and we set off looking for the trail to the base… without the map we had forgotten in the Jeep. We do a lot of hiking by headlamp, and tonight would be no exception. After several creek crossings, that were getting progressively warmer the closer we go to Dunanda, we finally arrived at, and passed, the sign indicating we were at Campsite 9A3. When we arrived at the top of the falls, we recalled the directions were to turn and go through the campsite, so we hiked back down to Campsite 9A3 and turned in the direction Boundary Creek. It took a few attempts in the dark, and a very helpful camper at the campsite, but we finally scrambled down the banks to the creek and found the large pine tree across the creek which provides the easiest--and driest--way to cross the creek. In the dark, we could make out steaming, rock-ringed pools on the banks of Boundary Creek. After a few minutes of picking our way through vegetation and mud, we found a hot spring-fed pool sheltered by a large rock. Heaven!