Which Yellowstone Trail Should I Hike?

Do you want to see lakes, waterfalls, thermal features, or peaks? Find your perfect day hike with our personalized guide.
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Do you want to see lakes, waterfalls, thermal features, or peaks? Find your perfect day hike with our personalized guide.
Yellowstone Hiking Trail Graph

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What Do You Most Want to See in Yellowstone?

I want to see amazing thermal features...

Mammoth Hot Springs: Trail 1

I want to see the high country above treeline...

How hard do you want to work?
I love short steep trail with scree slopes: Trail 2
Isn't the elevation tough enough?: Trail 3

I want to see stunning waterfalls...

Which area of the park?
South: Trail 4
North: Trail 5

I want to see a beautiful mountain lake...

How far do you want to hike today?
2.3 miles: Trail 6
1.2 miles: Trail 7

1. Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

The Mammoth Hot Springs 1.75-mile boardwalk trail enables you to see this iconic landmark up-close. It takes about an hour to explore the Upper and Lower terraces, home to about 50 hot springs. Liberty Cap is among the best known of the Upper Terraces features. Rising 37 feet in the air, this cone got its name in 1871 because of its resemblance to the peaked caps worn during the French Revolution.

2. Avalanche Peak

Hikers on Avalanche Peak in Yellowstone. Photo by NPS Diane Renkin

Hikers on Avalanche Peak in Yellowstone. Photo by NPS Diane Renkin

Take the direct route to views over Yellowstone Lake, the Tetons and the Absaroka Range on this short-but-steep 4-mile round-trip hike to a broad, 10,566-foot summit. From the trailhead, climb through a forest of spruce, fir and whitebark pine (watch for grizzlies) to a wildflower-strewn meadow. Press on above treeline and across the scree slopes to reach the dramatic summit.

3. Mt. Washburn

Hikers on the Mount Washburn Trail in Yellowstone. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Hikers on the Mount Washburn Trail in Yellowstone. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

This justifiably popular 6-mile round-trip trail has fantastic wildflowers in July and August, wildlife-watching (look for bighorn sheep, elk and bears) and big views from the summit fire tower. Start early to avoid summer afternoon thunderstorms. From the pass, switchback up to a ridge that leads to the 10,243-foot peak where you'll spot the Hayden Valley, several geyser basins and the southern edge of the Yellowstone caldera.

4. Fairy Falls

Fairy Falls in Yellowstone. Photo by Elisabeth Kwak

Fairy Falls in Yellowstone. Photo by Elisabeth Kwak

If hot springs and waterfalls are on your hiking list, head to Fairy Falls, which was once a 5.2-mile easy, round-trip hike that meanders through a young lodgepole pine forest in an area devastated by the 1988 fires. As of May 2016, the Fairy Falls trailhead and parking lot located one mile south of Midway Geyser Basin, is closed. The Fountain Freight Road between the parking lot and the Fairy Falls trail junction also is closed. For the next year or two, trail crews will construct an official trail and overlook to replace the unofficial user-created trails that led to what became known as "Picture Hill" where visitors would snap photos of the Grand Prismatic Spring from above. The new trail and overlook will safely allow visitors to get great views of the Grand Prismatic, the nation's largest hot spring, as well as Excelsior Geyser.

To get to the Fairy Falls trail, you should use the Fountain Freight Road trailhead located north of Midway Geyser Basin. Be prepared for a much longer hike. It will be 8.8 miles roundtrip rather than 5 miles roundtrip.

At 220-feet-high, Fairy Falls is the park's tallest frontcountry waterfall. If you still have energy, continue to Imperial Geyser, a little more than .5 mile farther down the trail.

5. Wraith Falls

Wraith Falls by James St. John via Flickr

Wraith Falls by James St. John via Flickr

Enjoy views of the 79-feet-high Wraith Falls on an easy, 1-mile-long round-trip hike. Walk through sagebrush meadows, marshland and conifer forest before you reach the falls. The trail, surrounded by wildflowers if your timing is right, starts at a pullout 0.5 miles east of Lava Creek Picnic Area on the Grand Loop Road.

6. Storm Point

Storm Point on Yellowstone Lake. Photo by Upstate Dave via Flickr

Storm Point on Yellowstone Lake. Photo by Upstate Dave via Flickr

Enjoy incredible views of Yellowstone Lake during this 2.3-mile easy loop hike. The trail begins at a turnout at Indian Pond, 3 miles east of the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center. Hike along the lake's shoreline, through a meadow and a lodgepole pine forest and look for marmots, bison, eagles and bear.

7. Trout Lake

Trout Lake in Yellowstone.

Trout Lake in Yellowstone. Photo via Flickr Always Shooting

A short uphill climb leads you to the tranquil Trout Lake, which feels much farther away than the 1 mile you hiked in. Bring a picnic and spend time looking at the lake's reflections of the blue sky and mountains. Park on the small pullout about 1.5 miles south of Pebble Creek Campground on the Northeast Entrance Road.

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