About the Site
Yellowstone National Park (10)  


Park History

Upper Geyser Basin

Old Faithful

Old Faithful Inn

Mammoth Hot Springs

West Thumb

Other Hydrothermals

Grand Canyon

Yellowstone River

Yellowstone & Other Lakes


Madison River




Hayden Valley





Among its many attractions Yellowstone National Park features a number of mountain ranges within the borders of the park. These ranges rise from Yellowstone's "Central Plateau" which ranges in altitude from about 7,000 to 7,800 feet. The highest point in the park is Eagle Peak, in the Absoraka Range on the east border of the park, at 11,358 feet. While the mountain ranges in and around Yellowstone National Park are scenic, and the peaks are very high they seem gentle in comparison with some other ranges elsewhere because they arise from a plateau around 8000 feet in altitude. There are more than 40 peaks in the general Yellowstone area which surpass a height of 10,000 feet.

Absoraka Mountains In the view below the Absoraka mountains are visible looking east across Yellowstone Lake. The mountains are named for the Crow Indians who called themselves the Absoraka. The Absoraka Range is volcanic in origin, the remnants of a chain of volcanoes which were active 50 million years ago. They are not volcanoes themselves but the remnants of an ancient volcanic plateau carved by erosive forces for millions of years. The mountains mark the eastern boundary of the park and contain 166 peaks of over 10,000 feet.

Gallatin Mountains This mountain range is found in the northwest section of the park. The Gallatin Mountains are geologically the oldest mountains in the park. They are composed of shale and sandstone billions of years ago, originally formed at the bottom of an ancient sea. They were subsequently carved by the action of large glaciers during the last ice age.

The Gallatin Mountains are named after Thomas Jefferson's Secretary of the Treasury in 1805 by Lewis and Clark. They form the western boundary of the park. Below, the Gallatin Mountains are seen across the flowing Madison River.

Obsidian Cliffs The Obsidian Cliffs are formed of black volcanic glass. The material was formed when flowing lava encountered glacial ice. In this location this happened 75,000-180,000 years ago. The cliffs rise some 250 feet above the road which runs from the Norris Geyser Basin to Mammoth Hot Springs.

The obsidian from the Obsidian Cliffs were favored by Indians throughout the Yellowstone area as material for arrowheads, and their is evidence from as long as 8800 years ago that native Americans used obsidian for tools. As a result of their importance as a prehistoric site, the cliffs became a National Historic Landmark in 1996.

Weather Peak This picturesque mountains rises from the Yellowstone plateau.

Golden Gate This scenic pass is just south of Mammoth Hot Springs on the Norris to Mammoth park road. The cliffs of Golden Gate are named for, and colored by, the yellow lichens growing on them. At one point this route through the mountains was known as Kingman Pass. This area was named because it provided a sense of "passing through a gateway", a pass formed by a canyon cut by Glen Creek.

A view from the Mammoth looks across the valley toward the north and east.

Dunraven Pass This pass leads trough the mountains on the road between Tower-Roosevelt and Canyon Village. Dunraven Pass was named after the British Lord Dunraven who toured the park in 1874 and 1876. He later wrote a book which reputedly increased European interest in and travel to Yellowstone.

Dunraven Pass provides a pass through the mountains at 8859 feet. It leads between Dunraven Peak and Mt. Washburn north of Yellowstone Lake.

Dunraven Pass's altitude of 8859 feet is the highest point on Yellowstone's "Grand Loop." The road here was completed in 1905, linking the Grand Loop road system. The picture below was taken in autumn where the snows of winter approach early at this high altitude. Extremes of temperature are common here; the temperature in the park ranges from -45 degree Farenheight to 90 degrees.

Mt. Washburn This picture also shows the rolling forests and piney woods characteristic of much of Yellowstone National Park. In fact, approximately 75% of the park is covered by forest. That forest, in turn, is largely composed of the lodgepole pine, named in part because of the use to which the trunks were put by Indians in their teepees and lodges. The lodgepole pine requires great ecological tolerance but requires a lot of sunlight. Other trees in these forests include Engelman spruce and subalpine fir. Along the Yellowstone and Lamar Rivers some Douglas fir may also be found. Given the short growing season of the Yellowstone area, and the severity of the winters, there are actually only 9 kinds of trees which grow here. The timberline lies around 9500 to 10000 feet.

Many dead trees can be found within the park, a great number of them killed by the great fires of 1988. However, the lodgepole pine, which makes up much of the forested areas of the park, is vulnerable to the ravages of the pine bark beetle.

Mt. Washburn reaches an altitude of 10,243 feet. The mountain also has a lookout tower on its top.

Mt. Washburn is the remnant, now eroded, of a 50-60,000 million year old volcano.

Another shot of Mt. Washburn is shown below, during the autumn as the winter begins to encroach on the park. The timberline within the park ranges from about 9000 to 10000 feet.

Mt. Hancock This view shows the heavily forested nature of many parts of the park. Some 80% of park forests are lodgepole pines. These trees able to survive, and in fact thrive, on the nutritionally poor soil common in the park. Other trees found in Yellowstone include the Engelman spruce and the subalpine fir.

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  • All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013

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