What a fine specimen this hiking trail sounds like, and a great possibility for adventure this summer in Yellowstone:
Specimen Ridge (fossil forest) 3.2 miles, one way.
Amethyst Mountain 10.0 miles, one way.
Lamar Valley Trail junction 14.7 miles, one way.
Soda Butte Trailhead 17.1 miles, one way.
Elevation change: Trailhead at 6,250 feet (350-foot gain, but overall, a 3,364-foot gain to Amethyst Mountain).
Trailhead: The trailhead is 2.2 miles north, then east, of Tower Junction on the Northeast Entrance Road, at the glacier exhibit.
The Specimen Ridge Trail is a long, hot and grueling trail during summer. But it does provide access to unusual features, terrain and valley vistas. A good portion of this trail, however, shows signs of the 1988 fires. Winds pushed the fire here and it burned the ridge extensively on most sides.
From the trailhead, the trail heads south toward the Yellowstone River, where it arrives at the four-way junction. The west trail leads to the Yellowstone River picnic area (see Yellowstone River picnic area trail for description), and the south trail leads to the old Bannock Indian Ford.
The east trail continues on the Specimen Ridge Trail and begins a steep ascent of the ridge. Atop Specimen Ridge is a spur trail to the Specimen Fossil Forest. This trail accesses the Specimen Fossil Forest Trail (see Specimen Fossil Forest Trail for description) and the petrified fossil trees on the north aspect of Specimen Ridge.
From the summit of Specimen Ridge, the trail continues east through high, rolling hills. It is not an interesting trail, but there are good views of Yellowstone-especially of the Grand Canyon-from the high points.
Amethyst Mountain (9,614 feet) is the highest point along the trail; from there is a good view of Mount Washburn to the west and the Mirror Plateau to the southeast. From Amethyst Mountain, the trail begins its 2,854-foot descent over 4.2 miles into the Lamar Valley and the junction with the Lamar Valley Trail (see Lamar Valley Trail for description). From the Lamar Valley Trail, choose from two directions to approach the Northeast Entrance Road. The longest route heads northwest down valley and ends at the Lamar picnic area near the Lamar Ranger Station, but the Lamar River must be forded just before the picnic area. The other route, the shortest and most direct one, fords the Lamar River just after the Lamar Valley Trail junction and continues northeast. The trail then crosses Soda Butte Creek via a footbridge before exiting at Soda Butte Trailhead.
I completed part of this hike last year, but I really crave MORE! It was gorgeous, peaceful and unique!