Snowshoeing On An Ocean
It’s no secret; Yellowstone is a playground for geologists! The park contains tales of ancient history that once sculpted Yellowstone. Signs of an archaic ocean, glacial activity, and a rich volcanic past are all around the park. It’s also no secret a winter vacation in Yellowstone is a great way to avoid crowds. Snowshoeing in Yellowstone is the perfect activity for visitors looking to stretch their legs during the snowy winter months. A small canyon along Pebble Creek holds the perfect trail for an easy snowshoe adventure while getting to walk through Yellowstone’s storied past.
Geology of Pebble Creek
A vast ocean once covered much of Yellowstone. Geologist believed the ocean existed during the Paleozoic Era or Mississippian Time Period some 350 million years ago. The climate of the region was much warmer, even equatorial like. The hot climate and calcium-laden waters gave birth to a host of invertebrates. Remnants of these invertebrates can be spotted in the cliff walls along Pebble Creek. Species of brachiopods and crinoids can be found in the area. Crinoids still exist today in the form of sea lilies and are closely related to star fish. Brachiopods are bivalves, meaning they contained two shells, and were found living on the sea bottom. A magnifying glass is needed to see the fossils. As a friendly reminder, it is illegal to remove or deface anything in the park. Just enjoy and take pictures.
Wildlife in the Area
Moose, fox, owls, and large birds of prey live in the area. Make sure to be on the look out for wildlife and make noise. Moose can be seen in winter grazing on willows and the low-lying buds of sub-alpine fir trees. Fox make easy meals of the mice and voles taking shelter under the deep layers of snow. Although difficult to see, short-tailed weasels or ermine also call Yellowstone home. If you are interested in seeing more animals, a guided Yellowstone wildlife tour may be a better fit.
Pebble Creek Snowshoe Trail Info
The trail starts at the Pebble Creek Campground in the northeast corner of Yellowstone. The northeast corner is one of the snowiest sections of the park, getting an average 190+ inches per year. Look for the trailhead sign or interpretive panel next to the parking lot. If not well used, the trail can be scant and hard to follow. A healthy snowstorm can also conceal the route. If you have a hard time finding the trail, just follow the creek north or upstream to the end of the campground.
The trail takes you through the Pebble Creek Campground. The canyon walls become more prominent at the end of the campground. Continue along the creek and immerse yourself in the geology of Yellowstone. The trail is the frozen creek, so be careful. If you are unsure of the conditions, exercise caution. About ¼ mile in to the canyon, the trail becomes more steep and narrow, making it a great place to turn around.
LOCATION: Pebble Creek Campground Parking Lot
TRAIL LENGTH: Approximately 1 mile
TRAIL TYPE: Type: Out and Back
NOTES: This route is not accessible in the summer.
TRAIL RATING: Easy trail. X-C Skiing may be difficult
HOW TO GET THERE: From Mammoth Hot Springs drive east towards Tower Junction, continuing the same direction through the Lamar Valley, and on to the Pebble Creek Campground, about 19 miles. From the Northeast entrance, drive west approximately 9 miles to the Pebble Creek Campground.
Have fun exploring and see you in Yellowstone!
Blog Post by Chris Hondorf, owner and guide for Yellowstone Guidelines. For more information on booking an adventure in Yellowstone, please email or call. Sources used for this blog include Geology Underfoot in Yellowstone Country by Mac S. Hendrix and Roadside Geology of Yellowstone Country by William Fritz/Robert C. Thomas.