Closest entrance: Mammoth is 5 miles from the Gardiner (north) entrance
Distance: 18 miles from Mammoth to Tower
The first highlight you’ll hit heading east out of Mammoth is a lovely pair of waterfalls. The first, triple-tiered Undine Falls, is visible from a road pullout, while seeing the second, Wraith Falls, requires an easy 1-mile (round-trip) hike. Also of note: the Forces of the Northern Range Trail, 8 miles from Mammoth. This flat .5-mile loop augmented with interpretive signs delivers a firsthand lesson on fire ecology.
Escape the summer traffic on Blacktail Plateau Drive, a 7-mile, scenic alternate route running parallel to Grand Loop Road. The unpaved route winds through aspen stands and meadows with excellent views of the Northern Range, and you might spot elk, deer, or bears. The drive essentially follows a route used by the long-vanished Bannock Indians; scars in the land made by their travois (luggage racks made of twin poles tied to a horse) are still evident along the trail.
You’ll end up back on the Grand Loop Road a mile west of the Petrified Tree turnoff. That Petrified Tree is well worth the short detour. Here stand the remains of an ancient redwood that was swiftly buried by volcanic debris and mudflows between 45 and 50 million years ago. Eventually, silica from the eruptions filled in the tree’s cells, preserving it to this day.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.