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 (1770 km) 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. Visiting wilderness means experiencing the land on its terms. If you choose to explore and enjoy the natural wonders of Yellowstone, there is no guarantee of your safety. Be prepared for any situation. Carefully read all backcountry guidelines and regulations.
Spring Hiking in Yellowstone is a great way to both see and enjoy the park. This time period allows the unique opportunity for non-motorized use of certain park roads. Hiking, bicycling, jogging, roller blades, roller skis, and similar means of non-motorized travel are permitted between the West Entrance and Mammoth Hot Springs as conditions allow from about mid-March through the third Thursday in April. The opening day in March is weather dependant.
The East Entrance to the east end of Sylvan Pass (6 miles from the entrance) and the South Entrance (to West Thumb Jct) roads will have limited access, depending on road conditions for these early spring activities. The road from Madison Junction to Old Faithful and Norris Junction to Canyon will NOT OPEN for spring activities during this time. Please Note, there will be some administrative vehicles traveling the roads at this time. See the Spring Biking Page for a map and more information. You may verify what specific roads are open to such activities by calling: 307-344-2109.
There are numerous trails suitable for day hiking. Begin your hike by stopping at a ranger station or visitor center for information. Trail conditions may change suddenly and unexpectedly. Bear activity, rain or snow storms, high water, and fires may temporarily close trails. At a minimum, carry water, a raincoat or poncho, a warm hat, insect repellent, sunscreen, and a first aid kit. It is recommended that you hike with another person. No permit is required for day hiking.
Some Day Hikes Listed by Area
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Camping for front country hikers or bicyclists is limited to the developed campgrounds located throughout the park. Campsites are available by reservation (through Xanterra Parks and Resorts) and on a first come, first served basis.
The distances separating campgrounds and the fact that the campgrounds typically fill early each day during the peak visitation season will pose logistical problems for the front country hiker or bicycle camper in Yellowstone. A limited number of campsites are reserved for hikers and bicyclists at all campgrounds with the exception of Slough Creek. Camping is not available at Old Faithful. If you are traveling with a group of hikers or bicyclists, call Xanterra Parks and Resorts prior to your arrival to check on group campsite availability; not all campgrounds can accommodate groups. If you have access to a vehicle, use it to find a campsite in your destination campground early each day.
Hikers or bicyclists camping without a vehicle can use designated hiker/biker sites for $ 4.00 per individual per night. All other vehicle campsites range from $ 10 to $ 16 per night depending on the campground. Opening and closing dates vary considerably for each campground. Check the Calendar Page or Camping Page to make sure that a campground is open if you are planning a spring or fall visit to Yellowstone.
Should you drink the water? Intestinal infections from drinking untreated water are increasingly common. Waters may be polluted by animal and/or human wastes. When possible, carry a supply of water from a domestic source. If you drink water from lakes and streams, bring it to a boil or use a water filter to reduce the chance of infection.
Yellowstone's weather is unpredictable. A sunny warm day may become fiercely stormy with wind, rain, sleet, and sometimes snow. Lightning storms are common; get off water or beaches and stay away from ridges, exposed places, and isolated trees.
Several commercial businesses are permitted to offer guided day hikes in Yellowstone National Park.
Did You Know?
There were no wolves in Yellowstone in 1994. The wolves that were reintroduced in 1995 and 1996 thrived and there are now over 300 of their descendents living in the Greater Yellowstone Area.