Day Hiking Guides
More than 900 miles of hiking trails crisscross Yellowstone. Download our day hiking sampler for the entire park (0.7 MB PDF) or read brief trail descriptions below and download more information about hikes in each area.
Numerous trails suitable for short or extended hikes into Yellowstone’s backcountry begin in the Old Faithful area. Trail Descriptions and More (636 KB PDF):
1. Fairy Falls
Round trip 5 or 7 miles, 8 or 11.2 km, easy.
Bear management area: Trail opens in late May.
Fairy Falls, 200 feet (61 m) high, is one of Yellowstone's most spectacular waterfalls. Choose from two routes:
2. Mystic Falls
Round trip 2.4 miles (4 km), moderately strenuous.
Bear management area: Trail opens late May.
The trail begins at the west end of the Biscuit Basin boardwalk near Avoca Spring about 2.0 miles/3.2 km north of Old Faithful. (You can also begin 0.25 miles/0.4 km south of Biscuit Basin. Park in pullouts on either side of the road.) The trail parallels, but does not cross, the Little Firehole River for 0.7 miles (1.1 km) The trail climbs steeply to an overlook of the falls, which are 70 feet (21 m). To make a loop hike, which is 0.2 miles (0.3 km) farther with elevation gain/loss of 500 feet (152 m), continue on the trail above the switchbacks until it meets the Little Firehole Meadows Trail. Turn right, descend to an overlook of Old Faithful, and continue downhill to rejoin the Mystic Falls Trail.
3. Lone Star Geyser
Round trip 4.8 miles (7.7 km), easy.
The trailhead is east of Kepler Cascades pullout, 3.5 miles (5.6 km) southeast of Old Faithful overpass on Grand Loop Road. This level trail and bicycle path follows the Firehole River to the geyser. Lone Star erupts 30–45 feet (9–14 m) about every three hours. If you witness an eruption, please note the time and report it at the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center. Biking is not permitted beyond a barrier near the geyser.
The lakes in this area have attracted humans for centuries and provide excellent habitat for wildlife. Trail Descriptions and More (0.6 MB PDF):
4. Shoshone Lake (via DeLacy Creek)
Round trip 5.8 miles (9.4 km), easy.
Starting at a trailhead sign at DeLacy Creek, 8.8 miles (14.2 km) west of West Thumb junction, the trail runs along the forest edge and through open meadows to the shores of Yellowstone's largest backcountry lake. Moose are seen here occasionally.
5. Yellowstone Lake Overlook
Round trip 1.5 miles (2.4 km), moderately strenuous.
Caution: Hydrothermal Area. Stay on designated trail and abide by detour signs at all times.
The trail begins at a trailhead marker near the entrance to the West Thumb Geyser Basin parking area and climbs through burned forest and a mountain meadow to a commanding view of Yellowstone Lake and the Absaroka Mountains. This trail is mostly level, with a moderately strenuous 400 foot (121 m) elevation gain near the overlook.
6. Riddle Lake
Round trip 4.8 miles (7.6 km), easy.
Bear management area: Trail usually opens July 15. Opening may be later if trumpeter swans are nesting on the lake.
The trailhead is about 3.0 miles (5 km) south of Grant Village junction, just south of the Continental Divide sign. This fairly level trail crosses the Continental Divide and runs through forest and marshy meadows to the shores of a picturesque little lake.
The shores of Yellowstone Lake have attracted humans for centuries and provide excellent habitat for wildlife. Trail Descriptions and More (0.5 MB PDF):
7. Elephant Back Mountain
Round trip 3.5 miles (5.9 km), moderately strenuous.
Starting at a pullout 1.0 mile (1.5 km) south of Fishing Bridge junction, this trail climbs 1.0 mile (1.5 km) through a lodgepole pine forest before reaching a junction. Either trail leads in another 0.5 miles (0.8 km) to a panoramic view of Yellowstone Lake.Pelican Creek
8. Pelican Creek
Round trip 0.6 miles (1.1 km), easy.
Starting at the west end of Pelican Creek bridge, 1.0 mile (1.5 km) east of the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center, this easy trail travels through forest and along the lakeshore.
9. Storm Point
Round trip 2.3 miles (3.6 km), easy.
Starting at a large turnout at Indian Pond, 3 miles (5 km) east of the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center, this level loop crosses meadow and forest before reaching the tip of Storm Point, where you will find expansive views of Yellowstone Lake and surrounding mountains. The trail continues along the lakeshore and through a lodgepole pine forest before rejoining the road.
NPS/Youth Conservation Corps
Numerous trails suitable for short or extended hikes into Yellowstone’s backcountry begin in the Canyon area. These hikes were selected by rangers and are NOT recommended for persons with heart and/or respiratory problems. Trail Descriptions and More (0.6 MB PDF):
10. Clear Lake/Ribbon Lake Loop
Round trip 3 to 6 miles (4.8 to 9.7 km), easy.
Start at Wapiti Trailhead on South Rim Drive to Artist Point 2.0 miles/3.2 km south of Canyon Junction on the Grand Loop Road. This relatively level trail winds through meadows and forest and passes by three lovely backcountry lakes. You can hike the entire loop 6.0 miles (9.7 km), or you can turn around at Clear Lake 3.0 miles (4.8 km) round trip, or Lily Pad Lake 4.0 miles (6.4 km) round trip. Caution: Clear Lake is a hydrothermal area. Stay on the designated trail at all times.
11. Cascade Lake
Round trip 5 miles (8 km), easy.
Choose from two trailheads for this easy hike:
The Cascade Lake Trail joins the Cascade Creek Trail after 1.2 miles. if you begin on this trail, remember to bear left on your return trip. Either way, you will hike through forest and meadow to a pretty lake.
12. Mount Washburn
Round trip from Dunraven Pass 6.2 miles (9.9 km), from Chittenden parking area 5 miles (8 km), strenuous.
From an elevation of 10,243 feet (3,107 m), Mount Washburn offers panoramic views of about 20 to 50 miles (32 to 80 km) in all directions. During July, wildflowers carpet the slopes. Look for bighorn sheep. The southern trail starts at the Dunraven Pass Trailhead and the northern trail starts at the Chittenden Road parking area. Both climb steadily about 1,400 feet (425 m). Conditions at the summit are typically colder and windier than at the trailheads, and afternoon storms are common. Carry an extra layer of warm clothing and wind/rain gear.
Numerous trails suitable for short or extended hikes begin in the Mammoth area. Trail Descriptions and More (0.7 MB PDF):
13. Beaver Ponds Loop
Round trip 5 miles (8.3 km), moderately strenuous.
The trail begins between Liberty Cap and a stone house in Mammoth Hot Springs. It follows Clematis Creek, climbing 350 feet (107 m) through forest to meadows of sage and stands of Douglas-fir and aspen. After hiking 2.5 miles (4.0 km), you reach the beaver ponds. You might see beavers or their sign, but you are more likely to see muskrats and water birds. The trail continues through mixed forest and meadows, and ends on the Old Gardiner Road behind the Mammoth Hotel.
14. Bunsen Peak
Round trip 4.6 miles (7.6 km), moderately strenuous.
The trail begins at the entrance of the Old Bunsen Peak Road Trail, 5.0 miles (8.0 km) south of Mammoth on the Grand Loop Road. Climb 1,300 feet (394 m) through forest to the summit, which features panoramic views. Return by same route. The nearby Old Bunsen Peak Road Trail is closed to vehicles but open for hiking and biking.
15. Wraith Falls
Round trip 1.0 mile (1.5 km), easy.
The trail begins at a pullout 0.5 miles (0.8 km) east of Lava Creek Picnic Area on the Grand Loop Road. This short, easy trail passes through sagebrush meadows, marshland, and mixed conifer forest to the base of 79-foot (24 m) Wraith Falls on Lupine Creek.
The Tower area was a crossroads for Native Americans, trappers, and explorers—and a campsite for presidents. We invite you to spend a few hours hiking in this historic and scenic section of Yellowstone. Trail Description and More (0.7 MB PDF):
16. Lost Lake Loop
Round trip 4.0 miles (6.4 km), moderate.
The trail starts behind Roosevelt Lodge and climbs 300 feet up a forested hillside. At the junction, veer right (west). You reach Lost Lake in 0.2 miles (0.3 km). From there, follow the trail through a ravine to the Petrified Tree parking area. From the parking lot, the trail climbs to a sagebrush meadow, descends to the Tower Ranger Station area, and then 0.2 miles (0.3 km) to Roosevelt Lodge. If you encounter horses, move to the downhill side of the trail and remain still until they have passed.
17. Yellowstone River Picnic Area
Round trip 3.7 miles (5.9 km), moderate.
Begin at the Yellowstone River Picnic area, 1.25 miles (2 km) northeast of Tower Junction on the Northeast Entrance Road. The trail climbs steeply to the east rim of the Narrows of the Yellowstone River and then follows the rim. Return the same way or make a loop by continuing to the next trail junction, where you need to turn left and descend to the road. (The Specimen Ridge Trail, strenuous and poorly marked, continues northeast.) Walk west along the road for 0.7 mile (1.1 km) to the picnic area.
Round trip 4.0 miles (6.4 km), moderately strenuous.
The trail starts on the gravel road to Slough Creek Campground, climbs through Douglas-fir forest, passes through an open area, and then descends to the first meadow of Slough Creek. This trail leads to popular fishing spots and to a private ranch north of the park, so expect to see people, horses, and an occasional wagon. If you encounter horses, move to the downhill side of the trail and remain still until they have passed.
19. Trout Lake
Round trip 1.2 miles (1.9 km), moderate.
The trail starts from a small pullout about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) south of Pebble Creek Campground on the Northeast Entrance Road and climbs about 150 feet (45.5 m) through Douglas-fir forest to the lake.
Overlooking a valley of the Lamar River, Specimen Ridge offers outstanding views. This trail is not a part of the longer Specimen Ridge Trail. It is a separate, unmaintained trail, along an unmarked route.
20. Purple Mountain
Round trip 6 miles (9.7 km), strenuous.
Look for the trailhead at a turnout about 0.25 miles (0.4 km) north of Madison Junction. You climb 1,500 feet (0.47 km) in 3 miles (4.8 km) to a panoramic view of the Gibbon and Madison rivers.
21. Harlequin Lake
Round trip 1 mile (1.5 km), easy.
Park at the third pullout 1.5 miles (2.4 km) west of Madison Junction on the West Entrance Road. Follow the gentle, uphill trail to a small lake.