Day 10: to West Yellowstone, Montana

The Arrowrock Reservoir, just east of Boise

The Arrowrock Reservoir, just east of Boise

Today we’re headed to Yellowstone National Park, the second park we’ll be visiting on the ground this trip.  It’s a short flight from Boise: about 240 nm and a little over 90 minutes in 7CF.  Our route takes us over the Snake River Plain, just south of the Sawtooth National Forest, where the terrain rises to 12,600 ft.  The weather is perfect today, with blue skies all along our route, so it should be a pleasant flight!

After saying goodbye to Max, Maria and Buck, we take off from Boise and head due east toward Friedman Memorial Airport (KSUN) in Hailey.  We’re only in the air for about 5 minutes — including the time to make a u-turn to get on course after takeoff! — before we’re over the desert, with signs of human life few and far between.  We keep the Sawtooth Range off our left wing and keep marching east.

After overflying Friedman and Sun Valley, the next waypoint is Craters of the Moon National Monument, which really does look otherworld from the air. We start turning northeast overhead Idaho National Laboratory, which is labeled on the chart with a simple request: “For reasons of national security, pilots are requested to avoid flight at and below 6,000 ft in this area”.

Approaching the West Yellowstone (KWYS), Big Sky Approach seems very worried about another plane descending into the airport:  a Cessna Citation, 10 miles ahead of us. It must have been a slow day in the radar room, but we politely explain that there’s no way 7CF is going to catch up with a business jet!  Crossing into Montana, we don’t need to descend very much to set up for our traffic pattern; West Yellowstone airport is at 6,649 ft, the highest of the trip, just 40 ft higher than Grand Canyon airport.  We’re careful to make sure the fuel mixture is set properly before landing, and we’re happy that — unlike at the Grand Canyon — we can taxi to the ramp under our own power!

Yellowstone Aviation is the small, but very helpful, FBO on the field, and the Montana Department of Aeronautics has a nice ramp-side campground for visiting pilots — perfect for us.  There’s occasionally airline service into the airport, so we head over to the terminal and grab our rental car, then set off to explore the Park.