Hiking in Yellowstone National Park

If you want a vacation that combines beauty, exercise, and entertainment, Yellowstone National Park is the place to come! Yellowstone boasts over two million acres of gorgeous wilderness to explore. There are more than 1100 miles of trails to tackle. A Yellowstone vacation has hikes that cater to young and old, the exceptionally fit and the weekend warrior. There are trails that are handicap accessible and perfect for young children, making Yellowstone a perfect choice for a family vacation. There are cabins and hotels available in the park as well as camping facilities. It is a good idea to plan your vacation well in advance, particularly if you are planning on reserving a room or cabin, as the facilities fill up quickly, often up to a year in advance. The following hiking guide will let you plan your Yellowstone vacation hikes. The trails have been categorized by location, and provide an overview of the hike including difficulty and distance. Stopping by the ranger station before beginning any difficult hikes is recommended, particularly if you intend to hike a trail with variable conditions. They will be able to inform you of any damage to the trails, as well as precautions which should be taken in areas where dangerous wildlife may be found.

There are a few basic principles that apply to the majority of hiking. (It is not imperative with the extremely short hikes, ½ mile or less hikes, to take the same precautions). Make sure you follow these tips:

● Tell someone which trail you are taking.
● Take plenty of water. Water bladder packs such as the Camelback are a popular and effective means of transporting water for a day hike.
● Sun protection. Sweat-proof sunscreen, a light weight, large brim hat, Chapstick or lip balm.
● Layer. Dress with plenty of lightweight layers that can be added or removed based on the weather. Mountain weather can be fickle and, although the day may start out beautifully, it is not uncommon to be caught in afternoon showers. You should also include a layer of rain gear. Another option is a plastic bag which can be worn as a rain cover and can carry anything that does get wet later.
● First aid supplies. Okay, so your first aid kit won’t help fix you up if you are attacked by a bear, but it can sure help with a bug bite, scrape, or sprain.
● Snacks. Find what works for you. Trail mix, energy bars, dried fruit, and jerky are all good suggestions for easily transportable food. A PB&J is also a great option for an easily packable sandwich.
● Comfortable footwear. There are a wide variety of socks and shoes designed specifically for comfort during day hikes. They last thing you want is to end up with a blister halfway through your hike, although if you remember your first aid kit, that won’t be a major disaster!

In addition to the above, extremely basic list, most experts recommend including these items in your packing as well:
1) Map.
2) Compass.
3) Flashlight.
5) Water purification tablets.
6) Extra clothing.
7) Matches.
8) Candle.
9) Pocket knife or multi-purpose tool.

With proper preparation, hiking in Yellowstone can be one of the most memorable and enjoyable vacations you will have.

Hikes in Lake Village
Pelican Creek Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: 1 mile loop.
Overview: Pelican Creek is a short look which will meander through both forest and marshland. Observant hikers may see a variety of birds along the trail as well as bison.

Natural Bridge Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: 3 mile round-trip.
Overview: A forest trail with short but steep areas follow a switchback trail to a natural bridge that is 51 feet high.

Storm Point Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: 2 mile loop.
Overview: Storm point trail offers an incredible view of Yellowstone Lake. The trail meanders through meadows filled with wildflowers. Bison and birds are common wildlife in the area. Storm Point trail is also extremely well known for grizzly sightings. Rangers should be consulted before beginning this hike to assess the grizzly danger.

Elephant Back Hike
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous.
Distance: 3 mile loop.
Overview: The 800 foot climb in the first 1.5 miles is what makes this hike a moderately strenuous one. The trail winds through dense forest and, after a mile, splits into a loop. The left fork is shorter and less strenuous than the right. The trail itself is not as scenic as many of the others in Yellowstone, but there is an amazing overlook of Yellowstone Lake at the end.

Howard Eaton Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: 7 miles round-trip.
Overview: Howard Eaton trail takes you through meadows, forest, and sagebrush fields. Grizzlies have been seen along the trail on occasion. At the end of the official 3.5 mile trail, the trail does continue unmaintained for another twelve miles to South Rim Drive.

Avalanche Peak Hike
Difficulty: Strenuous.
Distance: 5 miles round-trip.
Overview: This is a strenuous climb, ascending 1800 feet in 2.5 miles. You will hike through forest and across an old avalanche slide. There are many spectacular views along the trail. Much of the trail is unmarked, making it a hike more appropriate for experienced hikers. Grizzlies have been spotted in the whitebark pine forest on this trail.

Pelican Valley Hike
Difficulty: Moderate.
Distance: 6 miles round-trip.
Overview: This is thought to be the best site for grizzly sightings in the lower 48 states. Because of this, this trail should not be hiked before checking with the ranger station for current conditions and grizzly activity. The trail does not open until July 4th to minimize the risk. Additionally, it is recommended that groups of hikers have four or more people, although this is not required.

Hikes in Canyon Village
Mary Mountain Hike
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous.
Distance: 21 miles one way.
Overview: Mary Mountain has two trail heads. When hiking this trail you will want to park a vehicle at the opposite trail head to pick you up at the end of the hike. This hike offers views of elk, bison and possibly grizzlies.

Howard Eaton Hike
Difficulty: Moderately easy.
Distance: 3-12 miles (depending upon destination)
Overview: This portion of the Howard Eaton trail has stops at Cascade Lake three miles into the trail, Grebe Lake at 4.25 miles, Wolf Lake at 6.25 miles, Ice Lake at 8.25 miles and Norris Campground at 12 miles. This trail is often wet and has a large amount of insects.

Cascade Lake Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: 4.5 miles round-trip.
Overview: This easy trail meanders through forest, meadows and over creeks.

Observation Peak Hike
Difficulty: Strenuous.
Distance: 11 miles round-trip.
Overview: This trail makes a 1400 foot climb to some incredible views of the Canyon Village area.

Grebe Lake Hike
Difficulty: Moderately easy.
Distance: 6 miles round-trip.
Overview: Grebe Lake is home to the Arctic Grayling, a rare fish found only in Yellowstone. You will also see loons, ducks, gulls, and swans. You may also catch site of deer or moose. In June and July there are an over abundance of mosquitoes, so be sure to wear bug deterrent. The trail will take you through forest, much of which was burned in the fires in 1988.

Seven Mile Hole Hike
Difficulty: Strenuous.
Distance: 11 miles round-trip.
Overview: This trail follows the canyon rim for 1.5 miles offering a beautiful view of Silver Cord Cascade. There is then a 1400 foot drop with thermal activity in the form of dormant and active hot springs.

Washburn/
Washburn Spur Hike
Difficulty: Strenuous.
Distance: 11.5 miles one way
Overview: The three mile ascent followed by a steep, 3.7 mile descent makes this an extremely difficult hike. Your efforts will be rewarded with scenic mud pots and possibly sightings of Bighorn sheep.

Cygnet Lake Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: 8 miles round-trip.
Overview: This trail takes you through forest and along marshy ponds before reaching the lake. You may see bear along the trail, so caution is recommended.

Hikes in Madison
Purple Mountain Hike
Difficulty: Moderate.
Distance: 6 miles round-trip.
Overview: This hike is a steady climb of 1500 feet. Wildflowers are abundant and the views are wonderful.

Harlequin Lake Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: 1 mile round-trip.
Overview: This trail takes you through burned pine forests to a marshy lake. Birds are plentiful, however so are mosquitoes!

Two Ribbons Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: 1.5 miles round-trip.
Overview: This is a simple boardwalk trail showing excellent examples of fire recovery and regrowth. You will also see buffalo wallows on the trail.

Hikes in Gallatin
Hikes in the Gallatin area include Daily Creek, Sky Rim, Black Butte, Specimen Creek, Crescent Lake, High Lake, Sportsman Lake, Bighorn Pass, and Fawn Pass. These hikes are not generally recommended as day hikes due to their distance and/or difficulty.

Hikes in Mammoth area
Beaver Pond Loop Hike
Difficulty: Moderate.
Distance: 5 mile loop.
Overview: This trail involves a 350 foot climb through Douglas Fir forests. At the 2.5 mile point you will see beaver ponds and, if you’re lucky, you may see some beaver as well. It is also possible that you will see elk, mule deer, pronghorn, moose and black bear.

Bunson Peak Hike
Difficulty: Moderate.
Distance: 2 miles (depending upon the route you take, this trail can be up to 10 miles round-trip.)
Overview: This trail provides great scenery as it ascends 1300 feet. You will hike through forests and meadows before being rewarded with a nearly 360° view of the surrounding wilderness. Hikers attempting this trail before mid summer may find snow near the top of the climb.

Osprey Fall Hike
Difficulty: Strenuous.
Distance: 8 miles round-trip.
Overview: You will be hiking for three miles before actually reaching the trail head for Osprey Falls. This is a steep, winding trail with awesome views. The trail drops 800 feet on a switchback trail to the base of the falls which are 150 feet tall. You may see moose or deer on the trail.

Lava Creek Hike
Difficulty: Moderate.
Distance: 3.5 miles one way.
Overview: This trail, when started at Lava Creek campground, gradually descends and meanders along the creek before ending at the foot bridge crossing Gardner river. You may see bighorn sheep, particularly during early spring. At one point on the trail you will see Lava Creek plunging over a double waterfall for a beautiful view.

Rescue Creek Hike
Difficulty: Moderate.
Distance: 16 miles round-trip.
Overview: Rescue creek will take you through Aspen forests and meadows full of wildflowers with views of several small ponds. This trail is popular early in the season because it is one of the first to be snow-free. The trail gradually climbs before descending 1400 feet to Gardner river. Elk, mule deer, antelope, and bighorn sheep are commonly seen, particularly in early spring and late fall. Waterfowl are also prevalent around the ponds.

Sepulcher Mountain Hike
Difficulty: Strenuous.
Distance: 11 mile loop.
Overview: This trail ascends 3400 feet through pine tree forests and meadows before reaching the summit at 9652 feet.

Wraith Falls Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: 1 mile round-trip.
Overview: This is a simple hike through forested areas to the falls.

Blacktail Deer Creek Hike
Difficulty: Moderate.
Distance: 12.5 miles one way.
Overview: This trail takes you on an 1100 foot descent over rolling, grassy hills to the Yellowstone River. The trail crosses a steel suspension bridge before continuing on downriver, past Knowles Falls.

Hikes in the Norris area
Grizzly Lake Hike
Difficulty: Moderate.
Distance: 4 miles round-trip.
Overview: This trail has short, steep areas as well as rolling terrain. Much of the forested areas burned in the fires of 1976 and 1988. There are meadows as well, followed by a 250 foot climb. You will possibly see elk along the trail and will definitely see mosquitoes!

Solfatara Creek Hike
Difficulty: Easy to moderate.
Distance: 13 miles round-trip.
Overview: This trail involves a mild ascent to views of Ampitheater Springs, Lemonade Creek and other thermal areas before ending at Norris Campground.

Ice Lake Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: .3 miles.
Overview: This is an easy, handicap accessible trail leading to a small, picturesque lake. There is a network of trails which continue on to Wolf Lake, Grebe Lake, Cascade Lake, and Canyon Junction.

Wolf Lake Hike
Difficulty: Moderate.
Distance: 6 miles round-trip.
Overview: This trail leads through, primarily, burned lodgepole pine forests and offers a view of Little Gibbon Falls.

Cygnet Lake Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: 8 miles round-trip.
Overview: This trail leads through marshy areas and around small ponds and finally to lush meadows of wildflowers around Cygnet Lake.

Artist Paint Pots Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: 1 mile round-trip.
Overview: This hike is all on a boardwalk encompassing colorful hot springs, small geysers and mud pots.

Monument Geyser Basin Hike
Difficulty: Hard.
Distance: 2 miles.
Overview: This trail is relatively short and steep. It is easy for the first 2/10 of a mile and then ascends sharply 500 feet in the next 7/10 of a mile. It is a switchback trail with views of mud pots, steam vents, sulphar pools and cones with an 8 foot cone being it’s namesake. This is a beautiful hike, although rather smelly due to the abundance of thermal activity.

Hikes in the Old Faithful area
Geyser Hill Loop Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: 1.3 mile loop.
Overview: This stroll will provide you with a view of a variety of geysers including Anemone and Beehive.

Observation Point Hike
Difficulty: Moderate.
Distance: 1.1 mile loop.
Overview: This is a moderately difficult hike simply due to the incline taking you to a 200 foot elevation where you will enjoy an overlook of Old Faithful. You may see elk or bison and could, quite possibly, have the view to yourself as this is one of the less traversed of the simple trails.

Mallard Lake Hike
Difficulty: Moderate.
Distance: 6.8 miles.
Overview: This hike encompasses lodgepole pine forests, some of which were burned in the 1988 fires, meadows, and rocky slopes leading to Mallard Lake.

Lone Star Geyser Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: 5 miles round-trip.
Overview: This trail is, for the most part, a level walk to an overlook of Lone Star Geyser which erupts every three hours.

Black Sand/ Biscuit Basin Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: ½ mile each.
Overview: Boardwalk trails lead hikers to views of Emerald Pool, Sunset Lake, Jewel Geyser, and Sapphire Pool. This trail is handicap accessible.

Midway Geyser Basin Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: ½ mile loop.
Overview: This handicap accessible trail is a boardwalk stroll leading to excellent views of Excelsior Geyser and Grand Prismatic spring.

Fountain Paint Pot Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: ½ mile loop.
Overview: This easy trail leads to some beautiful and interesting thermal features. Along your walk you will see geysers, mud pots, hot springs and fumaroles. Fumaroles are small holes found in volcanically active areas from which steam emits.

Mystic Falls Hike
Difficulty: Moderate.
Distance: 2.4 miles round-trip.
Overview: This trail will take you for a view of the 70 foot cascading waterfalls before climbing a series of switchbacks to an overlook of Old Faithful.

Fairy Falls Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: 5 or 7 miles, depending upon which trail head you begin at.
Overview: There are basically two ways of reaching the incredible, 200 foot tall, Fairy Falls. You can choose to cross the suspension bridge and travel along the edge of Grand Prismatic pool through previously burned forests. This allows you to see the regrowth of the forest as well as affording views of some thermal features. Your other option is to drive along Fountain Flat Drive until you reach the barricade. At this point you walk South for a mile before turning West until reaching the falls, approximately 1.6 miles further.

Upper Geyser Basin Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: Varies.
Overview: This area encompasses approximately two square miles of highly concentrated thermal activity. There are spouting geysers, colorful hot springs, and fumaroles, providing unique views.

Hiking in the Tower Falls area
Much of the hiking in the tower falls area has been closed so before beginning hikes please consult with the ranger station. The closures are due to geological activity causing dangerous situations along the trail and, in some cases, irreparable damage to the trails. The following trails may still be open to hiking.

Lost Lake Hike
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous.
Distance: 4 miles round-trip.
Overview: This trail takes you on a 300 foot climb before you come to a fork in the road. The West fork leads you to Lost Lake after about 1/4 mile. The East loop will take you to Tower Falls campground. After reaching Lost Lake, the trail follows the lake around to Petrified Tree parking area. This trail affords possible sightings of beaver, birds (including hawks), and black bear. You can also view Petrified Tree, which has been barricaded to prevent vandals from access.

Garnet Hills Hike
Hellroaring:
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous.
Distance: Garnet Hill – 7.5 mile loop. Hellraising – 10 miles round-trip or 4 miles from the trail head.
Overview: These trails bring you to popular fishing areas, although the walk through sagebrush fields can be particularly hot and dry during the summer months and carrying water is a must.

Yellowstone River Hike
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous.
Distance: 3.7 miles round-trip.
Overview: This beautiful hike offers views of Osprey and possibly Eagles. You will enjoy thermal activity in the form of steam vents in the canyon walls. It is also a popular location for Bighorn sheep.

Slough Creek Hike
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous for 1.5 miles, then easy.
Distance: 2 miles to 1st meadow, 5 miles to 2nd meadow.
Overview: This entertaining hike is a favorite for fishers as well as being a still used wagon trail for Silver Creek Ranch, a private ranch on the edge of the park. Your trip through the meadows may provide views of wildlife, although they are not generally abundant in this area. Most common sightings are of moose, though grizzlies and black bears have also been seen. Check with the ranger station to inquire about bear activity in the area.

Mt. Washburn Hike
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous.
Distance: 5.9 miles round-trip.
Overview: This is a continuous but moderate ascent 1500 feet to the summit of Mt. Washburn. Although wildlife are not plentiful, you could see bighorn sheep and coyote along the way. While this is a relatively difficult hike, the views at the top are amazing and well worth the effort.

Specimen Ridge Hike
Difficulty: Moderately difficult.
Distance: 1 to 11 miles one way.
Overview: This hike along the lip of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone takes you on a climb to the 9614 foot peak of the mountain. You can then continue along to the Lamar trail head. You may be rewarded with views of elk, coyote, and bighorn sheep along the way.

Hikes in West Thumb and Granite Village
West Thumb Geyser Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: 3/8 mile round-trip.
Overview: This short, handicap accessible boardwalk offers a great view of the geyser with minimal effort.

Yellowstone Lake Overlook Hike
Difficulty: Moderate.
Distance: 2 miles round-trip.
Overview: An easy hike offering commanding views of Yellowstone Lake and surrounding area.

Shoshone Lake Hike
Difficulty: Moderate.
Distance: 6 miles round-trip.
Overview: This hike along forest trails and through wildflower filled meadows takes you to the shores of this beautiful, back-country lake. You may see wildlife in the meadows as you enjoy your hike.

Riddle Lake Hike
Difficulty: moderate.
Distance: 5 miles round-trip.
Overview: This trail takes you over the Continental divide, through forests and meadows. Moose and bear may be seen along with many birds.

Lewis River Hike
Difficulty: Moderate.
Distance: 7-11 miles round-trip.
Overview: This trail can give you a feel for hiking in Yellowstone’s back country. You will possibly see Osprey or Eagle hunting for trout in the river.

Duck Lake Hike
Difficulty: Easy.
Distance: 1 mile round-trip.
Overview: This ½ mile boardwalk takes you along a ridge with views of both Duck Lake and Yellowstone Lake.

Sources: Simpsoncity.com/hiking, Yellowstonenationalpark.com, talkingtree.com, yellowstone.net., travel.yahoo.com, dict.die.net, localhikes.com

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