While most visitors are drawn in by the geothermal wonders, Yellowstone also offers plenty of opportunities to hit the trail. From easy lakeshore strolls to steep climbs zigzagging along switchbacks, the park has countless miles of trails. This guide has all the best Yellowstone hikes for every skill level, so pick and choose and pack your boots so you’re ready to hit the trail!
Best easy hikes in Yellowstone
Distance: 2.3 miles out and back
Time: 1.5 hours
Point Sublime is one of the most rewarding and easiest hikes in Yellowstone. The hike starts at Artist Point, one of the best places in Yellowstone for observing the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and finishes at a small vantage point about 1 mile away. The entire out-and-back trail is 2.3 miles, making it one of the best things to do in Yellowstone for anyone traveling with kids who love the outdoors. It takes about 1.5 hours to complete the entire out-and-back trail.
What makes this Yellowstone trail so incredible is the scenery along the way. The Point Sublime Trail hugs the side of the canyon as it follows the Yellowstone River downstream. Parts of the trail are situated near the edge of a cliff, offering hikers unparalleled views of the Yellowstone River and all its surrounding glory. However, you must be careful as there are no railings or barriers to prevent you from stepping off.
The Point Sublime Trail is fairly popular and crowded. Though there are signs that warn you about having bear sprays, they typically not needed here unless you are traveling in the off-season.
By Sean from Living Out Lau
Distance: 5.4 or 6.7 miles out and back
Time: 3-5 hours
At 200 feet tall, Fairy Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in the park. Unlike more famous Yellowstone Falls, you’ll have to hike a bit to view it though. The Fairy Falls trail is accessed via two different trailheads – one at the Fairy Falls parking area near Midway Geyser Basin and the other at the end of Fountain Flat Drive. I recommend starting at the Fairy Falls parking lot because it takes you past the spectacular overlook of Grand Prismatic Spring pictured above. Lots of hikers only go this far and turn back.
The trail follows a relatively gentle slope as it climbs the small hill overlooking the spring and is an easy one to complete. Along the way, you’ll pass through forests regrowing from the massive 1988 fires that burned through the area. Eventually, you’ll come across Fairy Falls itself. It’s a tall but thin waterfall tumbling off of a cliff high above. If you’re so inclined, you can continue past the waterfall to see Imperial Geyser and Spray Geyser, which adds an additional 1.2 miles of hiking round trip. It’s one of the most rewarding easy hikes in Yellowstone
Distance: 2.3 mile loop trail
Time: 1 hour
The Storm Point hike, located near the Fishing Bridge area, is one of the best hikes in the park for taking in Lake Yellowstone. This easy hike is favored for anyone visiting Yellowstone with kids or visitors who need a short hike. Just because it won’t get your blood pumping doesn’t mean it’s not worth the visit! On the contrary, the short loop trail packs a punch with its stellar views.
You’ll first take a short walk from the trailhead parking lot to access the trail, passing a pond on the left. At the fork in the path where the loop starts, we suggest going right to go deeper into the lodgepole pine forest. Eventually, the trail opens up onto the incredible shoreline of Yellowstone Lake, the largest high elevation lake in the US. From there, you can try your hand at spotting marmots, bald eagles, bison, pelicans, and ducks. If it’s a hot day, you can wade in the frigid waters and spot obsidian in the sand.
While not an off-the-beaten-path trail, fewer people visit it since it’s further away and not close to any of the park’s major highlights. It’s the perfect trail for anyone who wants something easy with light solitude.
By Christina from Live a Wilder Life
Lone Star Geyser
Distance: 4.8 miles out and back
Time: 2-3 hours
Lone Star geyser is one of Yellowstone’s most popular off the beaten path thermal features. The trail to see it is partially paved and follows a former park road, so it’s smooth and free of sharp inclines. The trailhead is located off of the Grand Loop Road a few miles south of the Old Faithful area. Note that bicyclists can access most of this trail.
The trail isn’t particularly remarkable, though it’s a pleasant, well-shaded walk. What makes it one of the best hikes in Yellowstone is the thermal features at the end. Lone Star Geyser erupts approximately every 3 hours, shooting water as high as 45 feet in the air from its recognizable cone. There are rough log benches in the area where you can have a seat while you wait for an eruption, so it’s a great spot to take a picnic lunch.
Distance: 2.4 miles out and back
Time: 2-4 hours
The Mystic Falls trail is some of the best hiking in Yellowstone. The trail is beautiful and follows a forested area of conifer trees and a pleasant river up a gradual slope and eventually you see the majestic waterfall. It’s surrounded by gorgeous rock formations and tumbles down 70 feet from the Madison Plateau. The hike is an easy 2.4 mile or 3.8 kilometer roundtrip which also allows you to climb up switchback trails to a gorgeous viewpoint of Upper Geyser Basin. This additional hike to the top adds a 1.5 mile roundtrip of mostly uphill trail, which is great if you have the time to do it. You’ll be rewarded with views of Old Faithful and hotels nearby in the distance.
You access the trail from the Biscuit Basin Boardwalk, which has a small parking area. Make sure you hike earlier in the morning to avoid the heat and also the crowds that can clog up the parking lot. June to July is an ideal time to visit the park and do trails like the Mystic Falls hike, which is truly one of the prettiest hikes in Yellowstone. My recommendation is to bring sun screen, a hat, and bug spray since you will walking through thick forest areas and it is always good to be prepared.
By Noel from Oahu Travel Now
Best moderate Yellowstone hikes
Mt. Washburn/Dunraven Pass
Distance: 6 miles out and back
Time: 3-6 hours
Dunraven Pass is a popular hiking trail situated between the mountains in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming in the USA. It is located at an elevation of 8900 feet above sea level.
The pass is cut across by the Grand Loop Road. A winding side road used to lead to the top of Mount Washburn, but it’s now a 6-mile out-and-back trail that begins and ends at the same trailhead.
Along the entire route, you can witness the wonder of nature through picturesque scenery. It is closed during winter due to the accumulation of snow. Even in summers, there can be snow found on the way at a greater height. This ultimately makes the trail road muddy.
Alpine vegetation surrounds the area along with exotic wildflowers. Tourists can witness the bighorn sheep native to this area during the hike. There are also many other wildlife species to spot.
The summit can be a bit icy and windy. Clean restrooms are available here. The hike isn’t challenging but can be a bit long. The overall path is gradually ascending and slightly rough. It’s a good place for beginners to start.
By Ruma from The Holiday Story
Distance: 4.6 miles out and back
Time: 3-5 hours
One of the best hikes in Yellowstone, Bunsen Peak is an extinct volcano with a stunning panoramic view of the entire park, and is a perfect spot if you are looking for a less crowded alternative to popular spots such as Grand Prismatic Spring and the Old Faithful area. Once you get to the top of the Bunsen Peak, you will get an overlook of the entire Mammoth area as well as the Gallatin Mountain Range and Washburn Mountain.
This moderate 4.6-mile hike features a 1,350-feet elevation gain and begins near the Mammoth to Norris Road just south of rustic falls. The hike to the top of Bunsen Peak requires between 3-5 hours depending on your level of physical preparation. The trail has a steady incline and also features a series of switchbacks from which you can view Mammoth Hot Springs and the surrounding Yellowstone country.
To reach the beginning of the trail, take a left at the Bunsen Peak Road and follow the 3-mile path toward the trailhead. Since the trail is very exposed, make sure to bring a windbreaker, especially if you are visiting early in the summer season. In addition, it’s not uncommon for this trail to be covered in snow, especially in June, when Yellowstone is still has snow at higher elevations.
By Daria from The Discovery Nut
Red Rock Point
Length: 0.7 miles out and back
Time: 1-1.5 hours
Lower Falls is perhaps one of the most notable waterfalls in the United States. For the most majestic view of this Yellowstone wonder, the Red Rock Point Trail is one of the best hikes in the park. It offers hikers who make the short, but steep trek a jaw-dropping, direct vantagepoint of Lower Falls.
Just off North Rim Drive, hikers can choose to hike to the brink of Lower Falls or opt to do Red Rock Point Trail from the same parking lot. Red Rock Point Trail descends 260 feet into the canyon for a spectacular view of the waterfall. To reach the Grand View, as it is called, hikers follow a series of paved paths, wooden stairs, and often steep switchbacks for .7 miles. For those who want to catch a glimpse of this magnificent 308-foot waterfall without all the effort, there is a canyon lookout point just a short distance from the parking lot.
But, for an unobstructed view directly looking out at Lower Falls, this out and back moderately strenuous trail is a perfect addition to any Yellowstone itinerary. And it is a great hike to add to your itinerary if visiting Yellowstone or the surrounding Jackson Hole area with kids.
Located near Canyon Village, in an area of the national park called the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Lower Falls is the mightiest of three waterfalls along the Yellowstone River.
By Melissa from Parenthood and Passports
North Rim Trail
Distance: 7.5 miles out and back
Time: 3-4 hours
The North Rim trail is a perfect trail that gives an opportunity for magnificent views of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The total distance of the trail would be around 7.5 miles out and back which can roughly take one close to 3.5 hours to complete. There are two huge waterfalls that are a major attraction to this trail along with the picturesque scenes of the Grand Canyon. You can also access parts of the trail by accessing the North Rim Drive which runs parallel to the trail and is used by many to park vehicles at specific points. The trail is beautiful with lush pine trees running all over the canyon, Yellowstone Falls, the river flowing in between, and many viewpoints that make the trail an exciting one. The starting point of the trek is called Inspiration Point and some other popular access points are Osprey Point, Lookout Point and Red Rock Point.
The difficulty level is moderate to strenuous as at many places the ascents and descents are quite steep and will take a toll on your legs. There are many scenic points while on the trail like Lookout Point, Brink of the Upper Falls, Artist Point, and Tower Fall etc. There are also campsites around the trail.
By Utkarsh from Journeys from Heart
Beaver Ponds Loop
Distance: 6 mile loop
Time: 2-5 hours
If you’re looking for a quieter trail on the list of best hikes in Yellowstone, check out the Beaver Ponds loop. It leaves from a trailhead near the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and travels through gently sloping terrain across state lines into Montana. With an elevation gain of only 350 feet, it’s a relatively gentle walk.
At approximately the midpoint of the loop, you’ll encounter the beaver ponds the trail takes its name from. As the beavers themselves are nocturnal, you may not get a chance to view them, but there’s a decent chance you’ll see evidence of their presence. Other animals are known to frequent the area as well, so keep an eye out for elk, moose, pronghorn, muskrats, and even bears.
Lamar River Trail
Distance: 33 miles out and back
Time: 2 days
Though it’s lengthy, the Lamar River Trail is gently sloping and not difficult. Many hikers do a portion of it and then turn back without completing the entire length. Much of the trail follows its namesake river with little climbing to do.
The valley it passes through is known as one of the best wildlife viewing areas in Yellowstone and most of the park’s large mammals frequent the area. Herds of buffalo are the most common sightings, but wolves, bears, and pronghorn are also regular visitors. Due to the heavy wildlife presence, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings, use caution, and never approach the animals.
Best strenuous Yellowstone hikes
Uncle Tom’s Trail
Distance: 0.6 miles
Time: 1 hour
Note: Uncle Tom’s Trail is currently closed for reconstruction.
While this “trail” is actually mostly made of stairs, it’s definitely a sight worth seeing. Originally constructed as a pathway using ropes and ladders more than 100 years ago, its modern incarnation as flights of metal stairs is much safer. The trail winds down the canyon to the base of Lower Yellowstone Falls, where climbers can marvel at the 300+ foot waterfall, which is frequently complimented by a rainbow in the mist.
To access the trail, park in the Artist Point lot on the Canyon’s south rim and follow the short, paved pathway to the trailhead. After a couple of switchbacks, you’ll begin the real climb down the stairs. The 328 steps aren’t bad on the way down, but the way back up can definitely be a challenge. It’s the equivalent of climbing more than a 20 story building. There are plenty of spots to rest along the way if you get tired, but a good fitness level is recommended.
Distance: 4.7 miles out and back
Time: 3-4 hours
Located on the far eastern side of Yellowstone, this trail departs from a pullout for Eleanor Lake. It’s rated difficult because you’ll gain 2100 feet of elevation in just over two miles, so be prepared for a climb. There’s plenty of scenery to enjoy along the way, so it’s not just an uphill slog.
In the summer, you’ll be treated to meadows full of wildflowers and the pleasant sounds of a bubbling creek alongside the trail. Eventually, it emerges out onto a narrow ridgeline heading toward the summit. Views here stretch across the large expanse of Yellowstone Lake, as well as many of the surrounding mountain peaks.
Brink of the Lower Falls
Distance: 0.8 miles out and back
Time: 1 hour
This short but taxing trail rewards hikers with an incredible perspective on Lower Yellowstone Falls. Almost the entirety of the trail is a series of long switchbacks taking you down from the top of the canyon right to – as the trail’s name would suggest – the brink of the 300+ foot waterfall. From the corner of the established overlook, you can look straight down along the path of the water. It’s an incredible way to gain appreciation for the sheer power of the waterfall. Along the way you’ll also catch some long distance views of the Upper Falls as well.
The climb back up to the trailhead is the tough part. You’ll gain 300 feet in elevation in the short distance, but you can take it slowly and there are plenty of spots to catch your breath off to the side. Use caution and supervise children closely as there are some steep drop offs and no guardrails until you reach the end.
Distance: 20 miles out and back
Time: 10 hours
At just under 20 miles, the Electric Peak trail is not to be underestimated. It takes around 10 hours in total for experienced hikers and isn’t recommended for beginners. The initial 7 miles of the trail are fairly easy to manage and flat. However, the final 3 miles are incredibly steep and tough. With nearly 5000 feet of elevation gain this is a tough hike so bring plenty of water and appropriate clothing. The trail is not a loop so you need to go in and back which needs to be considered. However, the incredible views of Yellowstone are more than worth it. The panoramic views are absolutely stunning.
Always be careful when hiking in this area of Yellowstone. You might come across bears or elk so keep an eye out for tracks. The trailhead for the Electric Peak hike is located in the small town of Mammoth. Make sure to begin this hike early in the morning so you can get back before it gets dark.
By Victoria from Guide Your Travel
Tips for hiking in Yellowstone
Hiking in Yellowstone is a fun and rewarding activity for visitors young and old. However, before you hit the trail, it’s important to take safety precautions and know your own limitations. Here are a few tips:
- All of Yellowstone is bear territory, and the park recommends that visitors hike with bear spray – and know how to use it in an emergency. It should always be easily accessible so it can be deployed quickly.
- Don’t approach any other wildlife out on the trail either. A bison might not bite you, but it can still do plenty of damage if you get too close.
- Pay attention to weather forecasts when planning your hike. Yellowstone can hit just about any temperature on the dial, and many days that feature toasty high temperatures start and end with chilly weather. Be sure to pack the proper clothes for whatever the forecast has in store. Wearing layers is recommended.
- While you’re on the trail, pay attention to developing weather. This is especially important on the trails that lead to mountain tops, which are more likely to be struck by lightning. If you see approaching storms, it’s advisable to turn back. For summit hikes, it’s recommended that you get an early start in the morning as most thunderstorms tend to develop in the afternoon.
- Be sure to pack plenty of water or bring a filtration device. Since Yellowstone is at a higher elevation than most visitors are used to, you may find yourself needing more to drink than normal due to the altitude.
- Wear proper shoes when out on the trail. You’ll want a sturdy pair of hiking boots.
- Always stay on the marked trails. This is a general rule for anywhere you hike, but it’s especially important in Yellowstone with its thermal features. You don’t want to fall into a hot spring.
- Bug spray and sunscreen are your friends.
- Be careful around burned trees. There are frequent wildfires in Yellowstone, and the dead trees that remain are weakened and can fall. Be careful hiking through these areas and don’t lean on them or use them for food storage.