Day Hiking Guides

More than 900 miles of hiking trails crisscross Yellowstone. Read brief trail descriptions below and download more information about hikes in each area, or download our day hiking sampler for the entire park (1 MB PDF). Before you hit the trail, be sure to read up on the best practices for hiking in bear country.

 
Map of sample day hikes in Yellowstone   link to Mystic Falls day hike description  link to Lone Star Geyser day hike description  Link to Shoshone Lake day hike description  Link to Yellowstone Lake Overlook day hike description  Link to Riddle Lake day hike description  link to Elephant Back Mountain day hike description  Link to Pelican Creek day hike description  Link to Storm Point day hike description  link to Clear Lake day hike description  link to Cascade Lake day hike description  Link to Mount Washburn day hike description  link to Beaver Ponds Loop day hike descripton  Link to Bunsen Peak day hike trail description  Link to Wraith Falls day hike description  Link to Lost Lake Loop day hike description  Link to Yellowstone River Picnic Area day hike description  Link to Slough Creek day hike description  Link to Trout Lake day hike description  Link to Purple Mountain Day hike description  Link to Harlequin Lake day hike description
 
An eruption of Lone Star Geyser
Lone Star Geyser is a popular day hiking destination in the Old Faithful Area.

NPS / Neal Herbert

 

Old Faithful 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):

Observation Point Trail
Mallard Lake Trail
Howard Eaton Trail
Divide Trail
Mystic Falls Trail
Mallard Creek Trail
Fairy Falls Trail
Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook

1. Fairy Falls

Alert: parking in this area is very limited.
Distance: Round trip 5 miles (8.4 km) for short route 8 miles (11.2 km) for long route, easy.
Bear management area: Trail opens in late May.
Description: Fairy Falls, 200 feet (61 m) high, is one of Yellowstone's most spectacular waterfalls. Trailheads: Short route—park 1 mile (1.5 km) south of Midway Geyser Basin, cross the steel bridge and walk 1.1 mile (1.8 km) to the trailhead. Long route—park at the end of Fountain Flat Drive and walk 1.75 mi (2.8 km) to the trailhead. From the trailhead, walk 1.6 miles (2.6 km) through a young lodgepole pine forest to the falls. You can continue 0.6 miles (0.97 km) to Spray and Imperial geysers. This adds 1.2 miles (1.9 km) to the hike.

Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook

Alert: parking in this area is very limited.
Distance: Round trip 1.2 miles (1.9 km), easy.
Bear management area: Trail opens in late May.
Description: This trail gradually climbs 105 feet over 0.6 miles from the Fairy Falls Trailhead to a view looking down on Grand Prismatic Spring and the Midway Geyser Basin.

2. Mystic Falls

Distance: Round trip 2.4 miles (4 km), moderately strenuous.
Bear management area: Trail opens late May.
Description: 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

Distance: Round trip 4.8 miles (7.7 km), easy.
Description: 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.

 
West Thumb Geyser Basin
Hot springs in the West Thumb Geyser Basin

NPS / Jim Peaco

 

Grant Village & West Thumb Areas

The lakes in this area have attracted humans for centuries and provide excellent habitat for wildlife. Trail Descriptions and More (0.6 MB PDF):

West Thumb Geyser Basin Trail
Duck Lake Trail
Lake Overlook Trail
Shoshone Lake Trail (via DeLacy Creek)
Riddle Lake Trail
Lewis River Channel/Dogshead Loop Trail

4. Shoshone Lake (via DeLacy Creek)

Distance: Round trip 5.8 miles (9.4 km), easy.
Description: 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

Distance: 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.
Description: 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

Distance: 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.
Description: 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.

 
Hikers on the Storm Point Trail
The Storm Point Trail offers expansive views of Yellowstone Lake and surrounding mountains.

NPS / Neal Herbert

 

Fishing Bridge & Lake Village Area

The shores of Yellowstone Lake have attracted humans for centuries and provide excellent habitat for wildlife. Trail Descriptions and More (0.5 MB PDF):

Natural Bridge Trail
Pelican Creek Trail
Storm Point Trail
Elephant Back Mountain Trail
Howard Eaton Trail
Pelican Valley Trail
Avalanche Peak Trail

7. Elephant Back Mountain

Distance: Round trip 3.5 miles (5.9 km), moderately strenuous.
Description: 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.

8. Pelican Creek

Distance: Round trip 0.6 miles (1.1 km), easy.
Description: 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

Distance: Round trip 2.3 miles (3.6 km), easy.
Description: 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.

 
Hikers on the Mount Washburn Trail
Hikers make their way up the flower-filled slopes of Mount Washburn.

NPS / Neal Herbert

 

Canyon Area

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):

Howard Eaton Trail
Observation Peak Trail
Cascade Lake Trail
Grebe Lake Trail
Seven Mile Hole Trail
Mt. Washburn Trail
Washburn Spur Trail

10. Clear Lake/Ribbon Lake Loop

Distance: Round trip 3 to 6 miles (4.8 to 9.7 km), easy.
Description: 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

Distance: Round trip 5 miles (8 km), easy.
Trailhead Option One: Cascade Lake Trailhead, 1.25 miles (2 km) north of Canyon Junction on the Grand Loop Road
Trailhead Option Two: Cascade Creek Trailhead, 0.25 miles (0.4 km) west of Canyon Junction on the Canyon–Norris Road
Description: 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

Distance: Round trip from Dunraven Pass 6.2 miles (9.9 km), from Chittenden parking area 5.8 miles (9.3 km), strenuous.
Description: 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.

 
Hiker on Sepulcher Mountain
Numerous trails suitable for short or extended hikes begin in the Mammoth area, including Sepulcher Mountain Trail.

NPS / Renkin

 

Mammoth Hot Springs Area

Numerous trails suitable for short or extended hikes begin in the Mammoth area. Trail Descriptions and More (1 MB PDF):

Beaver Ponds Loop Trail
Bunsen Peak Trail
Lava Creek Trail
Blacktail Deer Creek to Yellowstone River Trail
Rescue Creek Trail
Sepulcher Mountain Trail

13. Beaver Ponds Loop

Distance: Round trip 5 miles (8.3 km), moderately strenuous.
Description: 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

Distance: Round trip 4.6 miles (7.6 km), moderately strenuous.
Description: 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

Distance: Round trip 1.0 mile (1.5 km), easy.
Description: 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.

 
Gazing into the narrows of the Yellowstone River
From the Yellowstone River Picnic Area, hikers can explore the east rim of the Narrows of the Yellowstone River.

NPS / Neal Herbert

 

Tower-Roosevelt Area

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):

Lost Lake Trail
Garnet Hill Trail
Hellroaring Trail
Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trail
Slough Creek Trail
Mt. Washburn Trail

16. Lost Lake Loop

Distance: Round trip 4.0 miles (6.4 km), moderate.
Description: 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

Distance: Round trip 3.7 miles (5.9 km), moderate.
Description: 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.

18. Slough Creek (to first meadow)

Distance: Round trip 4.0 miles (6.4 km), moderately strenuous.
Description: 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

Distance: Round trip 1.2 miles (1.9 km), moderate.
Description: 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.

Specimen Ridge

Description: 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. View Trail Description and More (1 MB PDF).

 

Madison Area

20. Purple Mountain

Distance: Round trip 6 miles (9.7 km), strenuous.
Description: 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

Distance: Round trip 1 mile (1.5 km), easy.
Description: 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.

 

Last updated: August 15, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168

Phone:

(307) 344-7381

Contact Us