Tower Fall/Roosevelt Lodge
Lying at the junction of the roads to Canyon, Mammoth, and Lamar Valley, Roosevelt Lodge was built in 1920 and named for President Theodore Roosevelt, who camped a few miles to the south during his 1903 visit. A lifelong supporter of Yellowstone, Roosevelt helped push through legislation that clamped down on the rampant destruction of park wildlife early in the 20th century.
The Roosevelt area is a favorite of families, wolf-watchers, and anglers, many of whom return year after year. The main building has the rough-edged flavor of a hunting lodge and a peacefulness that you won’t find at Old Faithful, Canyon, or Mammoth.
Inside are two large stone fireplaces, and the porch out front has comfortable rocking chairs that are filled each evening. Folks plop their feet on the rail, nurse a beer, and watch the night roll in. Heavenly. Rustic cabins—most built in the 1920s—provide simple accommodations, and Roosevelt has a restaurant and little gift shop/general store, along with horseback rides. It’s also the only place in Yellowstone to offer wagon rides and Old West cookouts; call well ahead for reservations.
Stop at the overlook to Calcite Springs, two miles southeast of the junction, where a walkway provides dramatic views into the canyon of the Yellowstone River, with steaming geothermal activity far below. The cliff faces contain a wide strip of columnar basalt, some of which overhangs the highway just to the south.
On summer afternoons, the parking lot at Tower Fall overflows with cars as folks stop to see Tower Creek plummet 132 feet before joining the Yellowstone River. The towerlike black rocks of the area are volcanic basalt. Nearby are a campground and a Yellowstone General Store. Tower Fall overlook is just a couple of hundred paved feet from the parking area, or you can follow the path 0.5 mile down the switchbacks to the canyon bottom. Unfortunately, the Park Service has closed the fascinating side trail to the base of the falls, but you do get a fine view of the river from the bottom of this path. A ford of the Yellowstone River—used by Bannock Indians in the 19th century—is just a quarter-mile away. For more than 100 years, a huge boulder stood atop Tower Fall; the water and gravity finally won in 1986.
Dunraven Pass and Mt. Washburn
As the park road climbs southward along Antelope Creek, it eventually switchbacks up the aptly named Mae West Curve. The North Fork Fire swept through this country in 1988, but the area is now verdant with new trees, grasses, and flowers. Ten miles south of Tower Junction, the old Chittenden Road turns off and leads a mile uphill to a large parking area and trailhead for popular day hikes up Mt. Washburn, the 10,243-foot peak that dominates this part of Yellowstone.
South of this is Dunraven Pass (8,859 feet), named for the Earl of Dunraven, who visited the park in 1874 and whose widely read book The Great Divide brought Yellowstone to the attention of wealthy European travelers. This is the highest point along any park road, even higher than the three other places where the road crosses the Continental Divide! Look for whitebark pines near the road, and be sure to stop just south of here for a view across to the distant Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Yellowstone & Grand Teton, 5th Edition