Get outside: Mermaids in Yellowstone?


Undine Falls

A snowy Undine Falls in Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone National Park has no shortage of spectacular waterfalls. Undine Falls is just one of many gawk-worthy cascades. 

But it might be the only one named after mermaids. 

Undine can be seen from a roadside pullout east of Mammoth Hot Springs, but the Lava Creek Trail provides a different look. 

The trail, far from mud pots or geysers, has two trailheads. One winds down to the Gardner River between the North Entrance and Mammoth, and the other starts east of Mammoth near the falls overlook.

The northern section of trail was free of snow in early November, making the steep descent down to the river relatively easy. After a little less than a mile a bouncy suspension bridge crosses the Gardner River. From there, the trail winds along the river and climbs up to the other trailhead near the Undine Falls overlook. 

It’s about 4.2 miles one way; those who don’t want to make a round trip will need vehicles at both trailheads. 

Undine Falls was named by geologist Arnold Hague, who authored a book and atlas about Yellowstone for the U.S. Geological Survey in 1899. 

The name refers to female water spirits in European mythology. The spirits were believed to have been born without souls, but could get one by marrying a mortal man, and were thought to have beautiful singing voices. 

If that sounds similar to mermaids, it is — the mythology of the two is related. But for all the creatures that Yellowstone has, don’t expect to hear mysterious singing.