The Queen’s Laundry Hike

queens-laundry-yellowstone-hike (1)In real time, I left Yellowstone today (Tuesday the 9th), but there’s still one thing I wanted to write about from my time there, a hike I did that was new to me.

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July 31, Sunday

Haze shrouds the mountains in Yellowstone today as I pull onto Fountain Flat Drive, a short paved road off of the loop road between Madison and Old Faithful that ends at today’s trail. While the air doesn’t have a noticeable odor to it, I’m pretty sure the cause is a wildfire burning somewhere upwind. A look online at maps of current wildfires confirms my suspicion and what’s worse – there are fires burning along both of the roads that my family could be taking to get into Grand Teton National Park to the south. I send my brother a text to warn him. (It doesn’t end up being a problem, the road is open on Monday when they come through).

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Hot spring near the trailhead

Today, my friends Aaron and Tammy and I are doing the Sentinel Meadows hike out to Queen’s Laundry, which holds the distinction of being the first thermal area in the park altered for tourist activities long ago. There was a little building made out there with the idea of piping water from a hot spring in to a pool for soaking, but it was never finished. The wooden structure is completely gone now and everything looks natural, but the history books say it existed.

Tammy and Aaron are a couple I met last fall at Amazon, and they worked in Yellowstone last summer too when I was here, but because they worked at a different location and for a different company I didn’t meet them then.

I get asked all the time if it’s lonely being a solo full-timer and I personally haven’t had a problem with loneliness since I started taking the initiative about saying hi to my neighbors in campgrounds about 6 months after I hit the road. In fact, I have more friends now than I did living stationary, for a couple reasons. First of all, I meet a lot more people than I did before. And second, everyone who’s traveling is going to have some common ground to talk about in the form of places visited and sights seen.

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Near the start of our hike is a large hot spring that is particularly hot as evidenced by the dark blue water. It drains into the Firehole River, which our route parallels for a while through open meadow with short grasses. The wildflowers are mostly gone in Yellowstone at the lower elevations this time of year as everything dries out, but it’s still neat country.

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We quite literally stumble into the Queen’s Laundry thermal area. The trail is hard to follow being in the open like this, without trees to fence it in. Orange trail markers are sometimes a quarter mile or more apart and it’s all to easy to stumble off the official route onto game trails. Our beaten path heads right between two small springs and we all realize at about the same time that this can’t be the official trail. But if bison manage to make it through here without falling through the crust we’re probably safe. We get a couple pictures but don’t linger. I imagine scalding hot water under my feet and tip-toe out of the danger zone.

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The official trail does cross a flow of hot spring runoff, rusty orange in color. Only in Yellowstone can you find water in every color of the rainbow. Well, it’s not the water actually, it’s heat-loving (thermophilic) bacteria that grow in colonies in the water, but the effect is the same.

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All in all, our loop is about five miles long and we complete it in about 2.5 hours. This is a nice hike for people looking for level terrain, which can be hard to come by in Yellowstone. The sun is merciless though and there’s little shade, so make sure you bring enough water!

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Coming next: Leaving Yellowstone and heading south.

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  1. Debbie on August 12, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    Interesting hike. The sun can be brutal. Wear a hat.

    • Becky on August 12, 2016 at 3:17 pm

      Glad you enjoyed this Debbie.

  2. Julianna on August 12, 2016 at 1:09 pm


  3. Rodolfo M Tenorio on August 11, 2016 at 6:27 am

    I hesitated about asking this question, you said you have more friends than you did before when you were not traveling. Do you really mean friends or merely good acquaintances, isn’t it necessary to spend a lot of time together and continuously (according to Aristotle) in order to develop a friendship.😃.

    • Becky on August 12, 2016 at 3:16 pm

      Both, Rodolfo.

  4. Ray & Yukon on August 10, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    Great looking pics….I plan on doing this next year. Any suggestions as to a type of teardrop trailer to pick up.

    • Becky on August 10, 2016 at 8:37 pm

      It’s a fun way to travel Ray. The three teardrop(ish) trailer brands I’ve looked into were Camp-Inn (high end with a price tag to match but beautiful, and built about 40 minutes from where my parents live): (I toured their factory, that blog post is, Teardrops NW (mid range, lots of customization) which I learned about from a friend of the owner:, and Runaway, which isn’t a true teardrop but about the size, and the cheapest tiny trailer I’ve heard of that still is well loved by customers (their owner’s group on Facebook is really active):

      As to which is best, I couldn’t say. Best of luck whatever you decide!

  5. Paula Frazee on August 10, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    According to this account, the Queen’s Laundry still exists as a designated historic structure – but is hard to find.

    • Becky on August 10, 2016 at 8:29 pm

      Interesting Paula, I was under the impression from coworkers that it was gone now. Guess it’s just so well hidden you can’t see it from the trail!

      • Paula Frazee on August 12, 2016 at 12:13 pm

        The hike sounds like a fun one, and now I’m challenged to find the structure! It will be on my list for the next Yellowstone excursion!

        • Becky on August 12, 2016 at 3:14 pm

          Sounds like a plan.

  6. Rodolfo M Tenorio on August 10, 2016 at 10:32 am

    Great post, beautiful pics. Thank you

    • Becky on August 10, 2016 at 8:25 pm

      You’re welcome Rodolfo!

  7. Debbie LaFleiche on August 10, 2016 at 9:45 am

    What an interesting name for a hike. About half the time you have to ask the questions, “How did they come up with that one?” and you imagine a great story behind the answer.

    • Becky on August 10, 2016 at 8:23 pm

      I know Debbie! I think the same thing when I see odd names like that.

  8. Dawn in MI on August 10, 2016 at 9:31 am

    So glad you shared Yellowstone with us again this year. Here’s another hike I hope to take some day!

    • Becky on August 10, 2016 at 8:22 pm

      I hope you get the chance to visit too Dawn, it’s such an interesting place!

  9. Lori on August 10, 2016 at 9:23 am

    really nice pictures! thanks. I’m curious, can you or is it safe to stick your hands in the thermal pools? I have this huge desire to know what it feels like? hot, warm, cool, it looks so clean, but the bacteria worries me.

    • Becky on August 10, 2016 at 8:12 pm

      The short answer is “no”, which when you visit the park you’ll learn quick as there are signs all over the place.

      It’s illegal to touch/swim in/disturb the thermal features in Yellowstone National Park, but there are hot springs in other parts of the country where it isn’t.

      In Yellowstone, many thermal pools are hot enough to burn, some are at boiling temperatures. That dark blue one for instance was 170+ degrees. And some are as acidic as battery acid and will dissolve flesh and bone – not very fun. And yes, some of the bacteria that grows in them are harmful to people as well. Every year there are cases of people going off-trail in Yellowstone and dying in thermal areas, I believe it’s happened three times so far this year. Once there wasn’t even a body to recover because it was an acidic one.

  10. Jodee Gravel on August 10, 2016 at 8:51 am

    We have more friends now than when we were stationary as well. Something about kindred nomad spirits connecting on the road that is so special! Love all the intense colors of the hot zone, and I agree I would be tip toeing to get through it :-)))) Safe travels.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Not Our Usual PaceMy Profile

    • Becky on August 10, 2016 at 7:47 pm

      You aren’t the first RVer I’ve talked to who has said the same Jodee. Glad you enjoyed the pictures and take care.

  11. Ron on August 9, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    And which way are you heading now? Do you have a passport? There is much more beautiful country ahead. Safe travels & enjoy!!!

    • Becky on August 10, 2016 at 7:45 pm

      I’m generally working my way south toward Texas now Ron for CamperForce. Take care.

  12. lindaandmike on August 9, 2016 at 9:53 pm

    are you taking pictures with your new phone there clear and pretty sharp thanks

    • Becky on August 10, 2016 at 7:43 pm

      Yep Linda and Mike, all the photos on the blog have been with the new SE since 7/13.

  13. Jay on August 9, 2016 at 9:51 pm

    HI Becky,
    checking in to see what you are up too! I see that you took a nice hike with your friends Hope that you had a good time with your family! was it their first time in Yellowstone ?

    I just ordered some more things from Amazon and I hope that you get credit for it as I went through your site. Take care and have fun. Jay

    • Becky on August 10, 2016 at 7:42 pm

      Thanks for using my affiliate link Jay, every little bit helps.

      Nope, my family was here for a road trip when I was 14 or so, but we only got to spend about a day in the park – it was a whirlwind tour. It was great having the time to see more this go around. 🙂

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