While there’s plenty to see from the roads, most of Yellowstone is rugged wilderness. Visitors who get off the beaten path and onto the park’s 1,000-mile trail system will be treated to epic views, wildlife watching, and solitude. Here are four stellar options from the editors of Backpacker magazine.
Go to backpacker.com/hikes for maps, downloadable GPS content, and more.
Length: 7 miles
Trailhead: Bunsen Peak
Backpacker Article: backpacker.com/hikes/300054
Perched on the edge of Sheepeater and Golden Gate Canyons, Bunsen Peak’s 8,564-foot summit offers sweeping views across Yellowstone’s northwest corner. You’ll wind across a sagebrush-dotted landscape and climb the peak’s northwest ridge via switchbacks to reach the summit. Take in views of Electric Peak and the Absaroka Range, then descend toward Sheepeater Canyon.
Elephant Back Trail
Length: 3.9 miles
Trailhead: Elephant Back
Backpacker Article: backpacker.com/hikes/300060
This loop leads to a prime overlook above Yellowstone Lake and views of the Absaroka Mountains. From the trailhead, climb through lodgepole pine forest. As you switchback up the mountain, look for pieces of obsidian (volcanic glass) in the rock. The trail crests a plateau, then heads southwest to an overlook. Soak up the five-star views, then follow the trail along the top of the plateau before tackling a steep descent back to the trailhead.
Fountain Paint Pot
Length: .6 miles
Trailhead: Elephant Back
Backpacker Article: www.backpacker.com/hikes/300061
With its hissing fumaroles, bubbling mudpots, and geysers, this .6-mile boardwalk loop is a greatest-hits collection of Yellowstone’s geothermal wonders. Start with a visit to Celestine Pool and Silex Spring, then visit the namesake paint pot. Next come Red Spouter (a muddy pool in spring and early summer, and a hissing fumarole in late summer and fall), Jet Geyser, and a vantage point offering views of the rainbow-like runoff surrounding the Jelly, Clepsydra, and Spasm geysers.
Lone Star Geyser
Length: 4.8 miles
Trailhead: Kepler Cascades
Backpacker Article: backpacker.com/hikes/300071
This must-do out-and-back hike follows a paved trail to Lone Star Geyser, a backcountry spout that erupts with a 45-foot fountain of water about every three hours. The trail crosses the Firehole River and climbs gently through forest and several meadows. After 2.5 miles, the path ends near the geyser. A nearby logbook contains information on the geyser’s next eruption.
More Great Hikes
A scenic, 15-mile drive leads from Pinedale northeast to the Elkhart Park Trailhead. You’ll start at an elevation of 9,100 feet. This trail offers short dayhikes into the Winds to destinations like Photographer’s Point and Miller Lake as well as longer overnight trips. Two trails lead into the wilderness: Pole Creek Trail and Long Lake Trail. Pole Creek Trail is a gentle uphill hike that heads east into the breathtaking Bridger Wilderness.
›› Go to visitpinedale.org.
Salt Lake City
Enjoy breathtaking views with easy access from Salt Lake City. Salt Lake’s trail network offers wonderful hikes into the surrounding mountains and canyons.
›› Go to visitsaltlake.com, call (801) 534-4900.
Hike to scenic South Pass from the trailhead on Oregon Buttes Road, 3 miles off Hwy 28. This easy, 1.5-mile (round-trip) hike gains just 30 feet as it meanders to great views.
›› Go to wind-river.org, call (800) 645-6233.