12 Best Yellowstone Hiking Trails
Read about our favorite dozen hiking trails in Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone National Park is home to some of the best hiking in the world. With over 1,000 miles of trails—through wildflower-covered meadows, to roaring waterfalls, to peaks overlooking the valleys below—you are sure to find a special spot. To help you find the best trail for you and your interests, we’ve put together a list of the 12 best hikes in Yellowstone. You can also read about our other favorite trails in Yellowstone.
1. Avalanche Peak
The trailhead for Avalanche Peak is located just west of the East Entrance at Cody, Wyoming. Look for the pullout for Eleanor Lake, the trail starts across the road from the pullout. Ascending up a series of seriously steep switchbacks, you will gain 2,100 feet in elevation in 2.1 miles. From the top, you get an incredible and sweeping view of Yellowstone Lake below. At this vantage point, you are also rewarded with phenomenal views of some of the park’s tallest alpine peaks. In total, the out and back trail is 4.2 miles.
2. 7 Mile HolE
Seven Mile Trail is a journey to the bottom of Grand Canyon of Yellowstone—all the way to the river. The trail takes you through a lodgepole pine forest, and into the bowels of the colorful canyon, past many thermal features and deposits you at the rushing Yellowstone River—where you can feel the force of nature that carved this majestic canyon. Unlike the viewpoints at the rim of the canyon, you will most likely have the entire area to yourself. It is 9.8 miles round-trip and moderately-strenuous.
3. Mount Washburn
Mount Washburn is a popular day hike; it’s trailhead located at the top of Dunraven Pass. The trail climbs 1,400 feet in elevation on moderate switchbacks. At the top, you are rewarded with expansive views that stretch from the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone to the Tetons and beyond.
The top of the peak features a fire tower, with a viewing shelter from the wind. There is also a map in the fire tower, showing you what you are looking at from each direction. When you are ready, head down the same way you came up—roundtrip, this out and back trail is 6.4 miles.
4. Lone Star Geyser
Lone Star Geyser is the largest backcountry geyser in Yellowstone, and is a must-see. Following the Firehole River, the trail is 2.4 easy miles to the geyser. The trail meanders through a dense lodgepole pine forest, until you reach a clearing, where the giant Lone Star Geyser appears and stands tall. There is plenty of space and shade to wait for the eruption, which occurs about every 3 hours, and lasts about 45 minutes in total. The best part about it is the solitude you will experience, compared to the crowded boardwalks of other geyser basins. When you are ready, turn around and head back the way you came.
5. Hellroaring Creek
This trail starts at the end of a short dirt road, 3.5 miles west of Tower Junction. It begins through a sagebrush meadow, then descends down a sharp hill on a series of switchbacks. Eventually, you will reach an impressive suspension bridge, crossing over the Yellowstone River. After another sagebrush field, you will reach Hellroaring Creek. Both Yellowstone and Hellroaring Rivers are popular fishing destinations. Enjoy the solitude and soak your feet in the creek. When ready, head across the suspension bridge and back up the switchback to the trailhead. The trail is 6.2 miles roundtrip.
6. Lewis Channel / Dogshead Trail
Start at the Lewis/ Dogshead Trailhead, 4.8 miles south of Grant Village. The trail leads you on a flat path through the forest for one mile, until you reach the northern shores of Lewis Lake—the third largest body of water in Yellowstone National Park. You will follow the banks of the lake for a half mile, then the trail leads you inland, taking you to Lewis River at 4 miles. Following the river for the next couple of miles, you have the chance to see wildlife, including bears, bison and osprey. Eventually you will reach Shoshone Lake—the second largest lake in Yellowstone. Get on the DeLacy trail here for .2 miles until you see the junction for Dogshead Trail. Follow Dogshead Trail through the meadow back to the trailhead to continue the loop. In total, the loop is 10.8 miles.
7. Fairy Falls
The trail to Fairy Falls takes you to an overlook of Grand Prismatic Spring—one of the most impressive, colorful and iconic thermal features in Yellowstone. Continuing past the overlook, you will begin hiking through a lodgepole pine forest, until you reach Fairy Falls, a 200-foot waterfall. You can keep going to Imperial Geyser, a remarkable backcountry geyser. The loop continues through the pines and back to the trailhead, for a total of 8 miles.
This trail is great because it showcases some of the best features of the park—the impressive Grand Prismatic, the plunging Fairy Falls, the backcountry Imperial Geyser. It is a moderate hike that doesn’t require too much effort.
8. Lamar River Trail
If you’re interested in rolling hills, stunning scenery, and a great chance to see wildlife, the Lamar River Trail is for you! The trailhead is located at Soda Butte in Lamar Valley. You will cross over Soda Butte Creek on a footbridge, and meander through a meadow, where you will most likely see a herd of bison grazing or wallowing. Follow the trail through the meadow, and you will reach a junction for Specimen Ridge at 1.5 miles. After another mile, you will get to the Lamar River—the true essence of Lamar Valley. This is a great spot for a picnic lunch, or to cast a fishing line. In total, this out and back trail is 5 moderate miles.
9. The Thunderer
Although there is no official trail to the top of the Thunderer, this trail takes you to the base, at Chaw Pass. The trailhead is just west of the Northeast Entrance of the park, there is a pullout on the south side of the road, and the trail also starts here. First, you must cross Soda Butte Creek, which may be high and difficult in the spring. Once you have forded the river, the trail continue up a series of switchbacks through a forest, and then over Chaw Pass and to the overlook of Cache Creek Valley. Views from the top of Chaw Pass include Amphitheater Mountain, Cache Mountain, and the Thunderer. This trail is great for hikers who seek solitude and desire impressive and expansive views.
10. Bunsen Peak
Bunsen Peak is a 4.6 round-trip moderate, uphill trek to a panoramic view of Yellowstone’s Northern Range. The trailhead starts at a marked parking area, just southwest of Mammoth’s terrace. Bunsen Peak’s trail is very marked and well-maintained, and the from the top you can gaze down on the Gallatin Range, Mammoth Hot Springs and the Yellowstone River valley. There is a lot of space at the top, so you can sit and enjoy the view while eating lunch. When ready, head down the same way you came.
11. Osprey Falls
This trailhead is at the same parking area as Bunsen Peak; the trail goes to the right of Bunsen Peak, and walks along a old service road, until you reach the forest. It is a steep descent down switchbacks until you reach the river. And then, out of nowhere, Osprey Falls appears, roaring over the side of a cliff. You can hike down to the river and the base of the falls to feel the blast of mist. Wildlife is prevalent in this area, so keep your eyes open for mountain goats and bighorn sheep. When ready, start the hike back up the switchbacks to the trailhead. In total, this is a 7.4 mile out and back, moderately strenuous hike.
12. Observation Peak
This trail starts just north of Canyon Village, approximately 1 mile north of the junction, at a designated parking area. The first couple miles to Cascade Lake are moderately flat, and meander through a meadow full of wildflowers and wildlife. After passing the lake, you start climbing up—gaining 1,400 feet in 2.6 miles. When you reach the top of Observation Peak, you have panoramic views of Yellowstone’s vast wilderness. Once you’ve had your fill, simply turn around and make your way down. This out and back trail is 9.6 miles.
Join a Guided Hiking Adventure
Yellowstone National Park is home to some of the most epic and amazing hiking vacations in the world. Wildland Trekking offers trips with the best of Yellowstone: geysers, waterfalls, views, wildlife, solitude, adventure and fascinating natural and cultural interpretation.
Guided Yellowstone treks are all-inclusive which covers permits; local transportation (excluded on certain tours); meals; equipment; safety systems and professional hiking/wilderness guides; all of which allows visitors to maximize their time in Yellowstone and focus entirely on enjoying the Park.
YELLOWSTONE ADVENTURE TOURS
- GUIDED BACKPACKING ADVENTURES: these are for people interested in an authentic Yellowstone adventure away from the roads and crowds.
- LLAMA TREKS: on these innovative trips, guests hike with light day packs and camp near in stunning backcountry locations.
- INN-BASED PACKAGES: these tours are all-inclusive packages with lodging, amazing daily hikes, expert guides, meals, transportation and more!
- CAMPING-BASED HIKING PACKAGES: camping-based hiking packages provide all-around hiking experiences of Yellowstone on wonderful outdoor vacations.
- DAY HIKE TOURS: maximize your day in Yellowstone on a fully guided, award-winning hiking tour on one of the Park’s best trails.