CODY, Wyo. — With all signs pointing to a busy summer in Yellowstone National Park — possibly even a record year for visitation — the best way to avoid the crowds will be to park your car and hit the trail. Which is exactly how Montana hiker and blogger Jake Bramante spent his summer last year.
After spending 40 days in 2015 hiking, documenting and rating dozens of trails in Yellowstone, Bramante has released a comprehensive topographic map covering 65 day hikes in nearly every corner of the park.
“I hope it helps spread people out to other places in Yellowstone and gets them out on the trails more, because there are a lot of great hikes, but people are risk-averse,” said Bramante, a Kalispell entrepreneur who has released hiking maps for other national parks.
Bramante spent 2011 hiking all 734 miles of trails in Glacier National Park, and released a popular map of Glacier day hikes. He followed that up with one for Zion National Park and has just released his Day Hikes of Yellowstone National Park Map Guide.
The waterproof, plastic maps sell for $12, and includes brief descriptions of each hike, including distance, elevations and trail highlights.
Unlike Glacier, hiking all of Yellowstone’s trails in a single summer was impossible. So Bramante focused on trying to cover a diverse range of day hikes, offering concise and honest descriptions, and even ranking them in order of preference.
Though books offer longer descriptions and more naturalist information, the map is meant to be a quick and handy reference that provides just the essential information.
“It was a huge challenge to edit everything down,” Bramante said. “The size of the format is restrictive, but it also boils out all the unnecessary extras.”
Among the highlights of his 40 days hiking in Yellowstone, Bramante recalls a walk along the Wapiti Lake Trail as the morning fog lifted, revealing sweeping views of the Hayden Valley.
He saw sandhill cranes, an osprey and a red-tailed hawk before he noticed a dark shape in the distance that turned out to be a grizzly bear.
“He was working his way down the drainage, following the contour of the land, so I just sat down to watch him as he was digging up roots, eating and doing bear stuff,” Bramante said.
“At one point, a vole caught his attention and he started jumping around trying to get at it. He looked almost like a fox, bouncing around,” he said.
“It was a great moment with just me and the bear, not a crowd of other people along the road,” Bramante said. “That’s the cool part of what the trail gives you.”
For more information on Jake Bramante’s Day Hikes of Yellowstone National Park Map Guide, visit hike734.com.