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Hiking

Hike to Mystic Falls in Yellowstone National Park

See a stunning waterfall and two geyser basins on the easy Mystic Falls hike in Yellowstone

On this family-friendly hike to Mystic Falls in Yellowstone, you’ll pass through Biscuit Basin, home of the stunningly blue Sapphire Pool and Jewel Geyser, before following a trail along the Little Firehole River to the falls. From Mystic Falls, there’s an option to make the trail a loop and catch views of Upper Geyser Basin, home of Old Faithful.

While this isn’t the Mystic Falls from the TV show Vampire Diaries, the beautiful 2.4-mile hike in Yellowstone makes up for its lack of paranormal creatures with incredible views on a relatively short trail.

How Long is the Hike to Mystic Falls Yellowstone?

The hike to Mystic Falls can range from 2.4-miles roundtrip if you plan to do an out-and-back just to see the falls, or 3.4-miles roundtrip if you choose to do a loop and see the Upper Geyser Basin overlook. The trail to the falls gains 250 feet in elevation, making it an easy hike. By adding in the loop, you’ll increase that elevation gain to roughly 750 feet, making it a bit more challenging.

Biscuit Basin boardwalk near Sapphire Pool in Yellowstone
Biscuit Basin boardwalk near Sapphire Pool in Yellowstone (Photo: Getty Images)

To get to Mystic Falls, park at the Biscuit Basin Trailhead, which is about three miles north of Old Faithful. (See a map) You’ll immediately cross the Firehole River and then follow a boardwalk through the geyser basin. Make sure to allow yourself time to take in the views of the thermal features and watch any geysers that are going off. When you come to a junction in the boardwalk, take a left. You’ll continue on the boardwalk for a short walk before you get to the Mystic Falls Trail.

Continue on the trail through the forest, staying left at the junction with the Fairy Creek Trail. Just past this junction, you’ll find another junction with a trail heading to Summit Lake. Stay right to head to Mystic Falls.

At just under a mile from the trailhead, you’ll begin to hike along the Little Firehole River. The first views of Mystic Falls can be seen at 1.2-miles, but the views are better if you continue on closer to the waterfall. The trail is narrow here and the banks to the river are steep, so keep an eye on children and be cautious when passing others on this section.

Mystic Falls from a distance
Mystic Falls from a distance (Photo: Depositphotos)

Take in the views of the 70-foot waterfall plummeting down a beautiful canyon.

From here, you can either return the way you came for a 2.4-mile roundtrip hike, or you can make a loop by continuing to follow the trail up a series of steep switchbacks, gaining roughly 500 feet to an overlook where you’ll see Upper Geyser Basin. Head right on the Fairy Creek Trail and follow it back to the Mystic Falls Trail to create a loop. Making the trail a loop increases the difficulty and might not be suitable for young children as the climb is fairly steep.

Is Mystic Falls in Yellowstone Worth It?

The Mystic Falls Trail is a great choice for those looking for a quick and easy hike with a big payoff. While the falls aren’t quite as impressive as those you’ll find in Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Mystic Falls is quite picturesque, and the trail isn’t as crowded.

After spending time in the park’s various geyser basins, it’s a nice break from the tree-less thermal areas to enjoy a hike through the forest. Add in a hike to Mystic Falls on a day you plan to visit Old Faithful.

Flat hiking path through a forest of lodgepole pines to Mystic Falls in Yellowstone
Flat hiking path through a forest of lodgepole pines to Mystic Falls in Yellowstone (Photo: Depositphotos)

What Should I Pack to Hike to Mystic Falls?

The hike to the falls is short, but that doesn’t mean you should be unprepared. Everyone in your group should have a full, reusable water bottle as summer heat mixed with Yellowstone’s elevation can easily dehydrate you.

Wear sturdy, closed-toed shoes with good tread to keep your balance on the trail.

While this is a popular trail, it’s always a good idea to carry bear spray when hiking in Yellowstone. Be sure it’s accessible and you know how to use it before setting out.

Can You Hike to the Falls in the Winter?

Mystic Falls is magical in the winter when steam billows from the Little Firehole River and snow clings to the cliffs and trees. It makes for an excellent snowshoe and is also doable on cross-country skis if you’re comfortable navigating ups and downs. It’s a great idea to have access to a GPS software like GAIA GPS (www.gaiagps.com) in the winter as a fresh snowfall can obscure the trail.

In winter, the only way to get to the heart of Yellowstone is by snowmobile or snow coach. From Old Faithful Snow Lodge, you can rent snowshoes or skis. You can arrange a shuttle to drop you at Biscuit Basin, or you can snowshoe or ski all the way from the lodge to Mystic Falls for an approximately 8-mile trek.

Mystic Falls in winter
Mystic Falls in winter (Photo: Mikaela Ruland)