Yellowstone’s Eagle Peak

At 11,358 feet, Eagle Peak is the highest point in Yellowstone National Park. It was given its name in 1885 by geologist Arnold Hague, the member of the U.S. Geological Survey assigned to Yellowstone Park, who thought it resembled an eagle with its wings spread. Its latitude is N44.320263º and its longitude is W110.026272º. It is visible from the East Entrance to the park and along the East Entrance Road. Trails near Eagle Peak include Rampart Pass, Ishawooa Pass, Sheep Mesa Trail, Kitty Creek Trail, Eagle Creek Trail and Two Ocean Plateau. The East Entrance is located 53 miles west of Cody, Wyoming, Buffalo Bill’s old home. From Cody, US Highway 20/24/16 leads west to the entrance. East Entrance Road proceeds 27 miles through the Wapiti Valley. It usually closes in November and opens in the spring when the snows melt.

Eagle Peak stands 2000 feet above the tree line, towering over pine forests, grasslands and meadows, including rare wildflowers such as aromatic *****toes, Absaroka goldenweed, Shoshonea and Absoroka biscuitroot. July and August are the best time for viewing the wildflowers in bloom.Lodgings near the East Entrance can be found in Sheridan, Thermopolis, Riverton, Cheyenne, Casper and Cody, Wyoming. Hotels, ranches and historic inns give the traveler a wide range of options.

The peak is part of the Absaroka Range, named for an Indian word meaning “children of the large-beaked bird”, a name for the Absoroka, or Crow tribe. The range is part of the Rocky Mountains and is the largest range in Yellowstone, beginning about 80 miles north of the park in Montana and running south about 150 miles along the Yellowstone River, into Wyoming, forming the eastern boundary of Yellowstone Park and the western boundary of the Big Horn Basin. Eagle Peak is located within the boundaries of Wyoming.

The Absaroka Range was formed of volcanic rock that oozed out of the ground from 40 to 50 million years ago. Landslides and floods mixed rocks, volcanic ash and mud that hardened into a kind of sedimentary rock called breccia. Glaciers also carved the landscape to form today’s range. Many geodes and petrified trees are also seen along the Absaroka. Trees, leaves, pine needs and cones, and pollen grains reveal over 200 species of plants that have inhabited the range at times, including spruce, fir, pine, breadfruit, avocado, dogwood, maple, oak, hickory and redwood.

The mountains form part of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, where abundant streams and lakes provide water for a diverse ecology. The area is home to grizzly bears, wolves, moose, elk, bighorn sheep, bison, marmots, coyotes, wolverines and trout. Hunting took place in the Absarokas for thousands of years, as indicated by pictographs and artifacts, although as far as we know the rugged mountains were always a place for visitors rather than a place to call home.

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