Best Hikes in Yellowstone National Park

Hiking
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park (Corel)
Top Hikes - Yellowstone

Here are two ways to get the best of the best:

Top Yellowstone Day Hikes into the Backcountry
Ten day hikes that will get you away from the crowds and into the heart of the park.

Top Ten Yellowstone Hikes for Families
A selection of hikes that showcases the best of Yellowstone: geysers, wildlife, and classic scenery.

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Trails—1000 miles of them—lead to remote areas of the park. Some offer easy part-day trips over gentle terrain; others require skill and endurance because of their elevation, length, and ruggedness. Most are marked with directional signs giving destinations and distances. Topographic maps and trail guidebooks can be purchased at any visitor center. Always check trail conditions with a ranger before setting out on a hike.

There are numerous opportunities to make short day hike excursions in all regions of Yellowstone National Park. Here are some day hikes for the park's most popular regions:

Popular Hiking Areas in the Park
Hikes Around Old Faithful
Hikes Around Mammoth Hot Springs

GRAND CANYON AREA

Howard Eaton Trail
Estimated time: 2-8 hours
Level of difficulty: Moderately easy; little vertical rise
Trailhead: Trail begins 0.5 mile (0.8 km) west of Canyon Jct. on the Norris-Canyon Road
Trail Description: Pass through forest, meadow, and marshland to Cascade Lake (3 miles; 4.8 km), Grebe Lake (4.25 mi; 6.8 km), Wolf Lake (6.25 mi; 10 km), Ice Lake (8.5 mi; 13.7 km), and Norris Campground (12 mi; 19.3 km). Most years, this trail remains very wet and muddy through July. Insects can be quite annoying!

Observation Peak
Round trip distance: 6 miles (9.7 km)
Estimated time: 4 hours
Level of difficulty: Strenuous; 1,400 foot (425 m) vertical rise in 3 miles (4.8 km)
Trailhead: Trail begins at Cascade Lake
Trail Description: Hike to a high mountain peak for an outstanding view of the Yellowstone wilderness. The trail passes through open meadows and some white bark pine forest. Past Cascade Lake, no water is available along the trail. Not recommended for persons with heart and/or respiratory problems.

Cascade Lake (via Cascade Lake Picnic Area)
Round trip distance: 4.5 miles (7.2 km)
Estimated time: 3 hours
Level of difficulty: Easy, level walking
Trailhead: Trail begins at the Cascade Lake Picnic Area, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) north of Canyon Jct. on the Tower-Canyon Road.
Trail Description: An enjoyable walk through open meadows and over small creeks for those with limited time. Look for wildlife and wildflowers in season. Most years, this trail remains very wet and muddy through July.

Grebe Lake (via Norris-Canyon Road)
Round trip distance: 6 miles (9.7 km)
Estimated time: 3-4 hours
Level of difficulty: Moderately easy; little vertical rise
Trailhead: Trail begins 3.5 miles (5.6 km) west of Canyon Junction on the Norris Canyon Road
Trail Description: A more direct route to Grebe Lake, this trail follows an old fire road through meadows and forest, some of which was burned during the fires of 1988. Once at the lake, you can connect with the Howard Eaton Trail (see above).

Seven Mile Hole
Round trip distance: 11 miles (17.7 km)
Estimated time: 6-8 hours
Level of difficulty: Moderately difficult to strenuous
Trailhead: Trail begins at the Glacial Boulder trailhead on Inspiration Point Road
Trail Description: Following the Canyon Rim for the first 1.5 miles (2.4 km), you will be rewarded with views of Silver Cord Cascade. Continue north another 0.5 mile (0.8 km) to join the Washburn Spur Trail; at 3 miles (4.8 km), the trail drops off to Seven Mile Hole, a 1.5 mi (2.4 km), 1,400 foot (425 m) drop. Hike it carefully, watch your footing, and conserve your energy; depending on your condition and the weather, it can be a long hike back out. Be especially careful where the trail passes both dormant and active hot springs. Off-trail travel is prohibited. Not recommended for persons with heart and/or respiratory problems.

Washburn Trail & Spur Trail
One way distance: 11-1/2 miles (18.5 km)
Estimated time: 6-8 hours
Level of difficulty: Strenuous
Trailhead: Trail begins at the Washburn Trailhead, 4.5 miles north of Canyon Junction and ends at Glacial Boulder on Inspiration Point Road
Trail Description: Starting at the Washburn Trailhead at Dunraven Pass, you ascend Mt. Washburn on a trail complete with, in season, wildflowers, bighorn sheep, and spectacular views. After this three-mile ascent, the Washburn Spur Trail descends very steeply from the east side of the Fire Lookout to Washburn Hot Springs in an another 3.7 miles (6 km). Here, you will find some interesting thermal features, including mud pots. Continue past the turnoff to Seven Mile Hole and follow the trail to the Glacial Boulder and the Canyon area. Not recommended for persons with heart and/or respiratory problems.

Bears
Yellowstone is bear country. Hike with friends, make noise, be alert, and talk with a ranger before hiking. Detailed bear information is available at ranger stations and visitor centers throughout the park.

YELLOWSTONE LAKE/FISHING BRIDGE AREAS

Pelican Creek Trail
Round-trip distance: 1 mile (1.5 km)
Trailhead: West end of Pelican Creek Bridge, 1 mile (1.5 km) east of Fishing Bridge Visitor Center
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Trail Description: This short but diverse trail travels through the forest to the lakeshore before looping back across the marsh along Pelican Creek to the trailhead. It is a scenic introduction to a variety of Yellowstone's habitats.

Natural Bridge Trail
Round-trip distance: 3 miles (5 km)
Trailhead: Bridge Bay Marina parking lot near the Campground entrance road
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Trail Description: The natural bridge is a 51 foot (18 m) high cliff of rhyolite rock that has been cut through by the erosional forces of Bridge Creek. The hiking trail meanders through the forest for 1/2 mile (0.8 km). It then joins the road and continues to the right (west) for 1 mile (1.5 km) before reaching the Natural Bridge. The short but steep switchback trail to the top of the bridge starts in front of the interpretive exhibit. Exercise caution when attempting this ascent. To protect this fragile resource, THE TOP OF THE BRIDGE IS CLOSED TO HIKING. The bike trail to the bridge begins just south of the marina off the main road.

This trail is closed from late spring to early summer due to bears feeding on spawning trout in Bridge Creek. Inquire at the Visitor Center about trail closures before hiking or bicycling.

Storm Point Trail
Round-trip distance: 3 miles (5 km)
Trailhead: Turnout at Indian Pond, 3 miles (5 km) east of Fishing Bridge Visitor Center
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Trail Description: This trail begins in the open meadows overlooking Indian Pond and Yellowstone Lake. The trail passes by the pond before fuming right (west) into the forest. It continues through the trees and out to scenic, windswept Storm Point. The rocky area near the point is home to a large colony of yellow-bellied marmots. Following the shoreline to the west, the trail eventually loops through the lodgepole forest and returns to Indian Pond. This trail is often closed from late spring to early summer due to the bears feeding on bison carcasses and using the lakeshore to travel between trout spawning streams. Inquire at the Visitor Center about trail closures before beginning this hike.

Elephant Back Mountain Trail
Round-trip distance: 3 miles (5 km)
Trailhead: Turnout 1 mile (1.5 km) south of Fishing Bridge Junction
Level of Difficulty: Moderately strenuous
Trail Description: This trail climbs 800 feet (244 m) in 1-1/2 miles (2.4 km) through the dense lodgepole forest. After a mile, the trail splits into a loop. The left fork is the shortest route to the top, though both pin again at the overlook. The overlook affords a sweeping panoramic view of Yellowstone Lake and the surrounding area.

Howard Eaton Trail
Round-trip distance: 7 miles (11.3 km)
Trailhead: Parking lot on east side of the Fishing Bridge
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Trail Description: From the east side of the bridge, the trail follows the Yellowstone River for a short distance before joining a service road; the trail continues on the service road for 1/4 mile (0.4 km). As it leaves the road, the trail meanders for two miles (3.2 km) through meadow, forest, and sageflats with frequent views of the river. Wildlife and waterfowl are commonly seen here. The last mile (1.6 km) passes through a dense lodgepole pine forest before reaching an overview of LeHardy Rapids.

To return, follow the same trail back to the trailhead. The trail does continue on to the Artist Point Road at Canyon in another 12 miles (19 km) but is not well maintained. This trip would require planning for a full day's hike and a return ride to the trailhead.

This area is good grizzly bear habitat. The trail is closed when bears are known to be in the area. Inquire at the Visitor Center before hiking.

Backcountry Safety
Yellowstone National Park, encompassing 2.2 million acres, is one of America's premier wilderness areas. Most of the park is backcountry and managed as wilderness. Over 1,100 miles of trails are available for hiking. However, there are dangers inherent in wilderness—unpredictable wildlife, changing weather conditions, remote thermal areas, cold water lakes, turbulent streams, and rugged mountains with loose, "rotten" rock are among them. Visiting wilderness means experiencing the land on its terms. You have chosen to explore and enjoy the natural wonders of Yellowstone but there is no guarantee of your safety. Be prepared for any situation! Carefully read all backcountry guidelines and regulations.

To preserve Yellowstone's backcountry and enhance your wilderness experience, the National Park Service has established the following regulations and guidelines. Contact a park ranger before you begin a day hike or overnight trip to get an updated list of regulations and guidelines and learn about current backcountry conditions.

Permits
Permits are required for some day hikes and all overnight trips. Yellowstone Park has a designated backcountry campsite system and a non-fee permit is required for overnight stays. Permits can be obtained only in person and no more than 48 hours in advance. Each designated campsite has a maximum limit for the number of people and stock allowed per night. The maximum stay per campsite varies from 1 to 3 nights per trip. A day use permit is required for some areas. Bear activities sometimes require hiking and camping restrictions. Permits are also required for boating and fishing. Information and permits are available at ranger stations and visitor centers. In bear country, noisy hikers are safest because they are least likely to surprise bears. A loud, continuous talker may be your best companion on the trail, if not in camp! It's a good idea to wear a bell as you walk. If you see a bear, detour! Ask a park ranger about traveling and camping in bear country.



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