Travel 800 feet down into Yellowstone National Park’s second largest canyon to the base of Osprey Falls. Avoid the crowds at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and venture to the less-travelled, but just as vibrant, Sheepeater Canyon.
The trail to Osprey Falls begins at the same trailhead for Bunsen Peak. Parking fills quickly, so grab a parking spot early. From the trailhead, walk along an old service road for approximately 3 miles around the base of Bunsen Peak. (This dirt service road is one of only less than half a dozen bike paths in the park.) The road winds past small lakes, through new lodgepole growth, and across an open landscape of grasses and sagebrush. You’re almost certain to find some wildlife en route, whether it’s ruffed grouse, elk, bear, or black tailed weasel.
The single track leading to Osprey Falls is signed on your right, but if you want to see a rarely viewed perspective of the canyon, continue another 400 meters on the service road to an overlook. Return to the singletrack, and steeply switchback down the west side of the canyon. In the summer, footing can be particularly loose going downhill – tread carefully. At all times of year, you can hear the Gardner River falling 150 feet to the canyon bottom, but the roar in May and June can be deafening.
The Sheepeaters were a band of Shoshone Indians that lived in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Their name in Shoshone was Tukudika, meaning “eaters of meat.” A large part of their diet and livelihood depended on the bighorn sheep that thrived in the mountainous area of Yellowstone.