The 8 Best Hikes in Yellowstone National Park

Explore otherworldly landscapes and enchanting natural wonders in the world’s oldest national park.

Yellowstone National Park is one of them America’s Most Beloved National Parks, and rightly so. With roaring geysers shooting water hundreds of meters into the air, bubbling mud pools and an abundance of large mammals and wildlife, it’s a pretty special place. There is so much to see and do, but we think one of the best ways to explore is to let your curiosity lead the way on one of the many hiking trails. In fact, Yellowstone has over 1,000 miles of hiking trails to explore.

We’ve compiled a list of must-do Yellowstone hikes (in no particular order) to help you discover the beauty of this national treasure.

1. Mount Washburn Trail

The view on the Mount Washburn Trail in Yellowstone National Park
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 6.2 miles
  • Duration: 3-6 hours
  • Height: 1,400 feet
  • Hike type: Out and back
  • Wheelchair accessible: None
  • Trailhead: Dunraven Pass

Hike up to the lookout tower on Mount Washburn for incredible 360 ​​views that stretch as far as 50 miles. On a clear day, you can see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Yellowstone Lake, the Absaroka Range and rolling mountain ranges. It’s not the best trail to hike in solitude (it’s one of the park’s most popular day hikes), but we promise the views are worth it.

Starting from the Dunraven Pass Trailhead, you climb a steady climb that skirts the side of Mt. Washburn. You then go through a mile-long series of switchbacks before approaching the final section, which flattens out slightly as you reach the top. The trail is very scenic with rock outcrops, wildflowers (in summer) and the occasional family of bighorn sheep. Grizzlies also roam the area, but it is less common to see them during the high summer season.

2. North Rim Trail

The Yellowstone River in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
  • Difficulty: Light/moderate
  • Distance: 7.6 miles
  • Duration: 3-4 hours
  • Height: 1,000 feet
  • Hike type: Out and back
  • Wheelchair accessible: Yes (the section between Grandview Point and Lookout Point is accessible)
  • Trailhead: Inspiration point

The Grand Canyon in Yellowstone is an absolute must. Although you can drive to many of the viewpoints, this trail offers exclusive views and lets you get up close to the thundering Upper and Lower Falls. Starting at Inspiration Point, you’ll meander through picturesque Cascade Creek just above Crystal Falls before approaching a short trail that takes you down to the edge of Upper Falls, where you can watch the river plunge 109 feet.

Another slightly longer climb down takes you to the edge of the Lower Falls, where the water plunges another 308 feet (more than twice the size of Niagra Falls), and standing that close is pretty impressive. You will hear and feel the roar of this mighty water power. Oh, and be prepared to get sprayed by the fog!

3. Avalanche Peak

  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Distance: 4.6 miles
  • Duration: 3-5 hours
  • Height: 2,100 feet
  • Hike type: Out and back
  • Wheelchair accessible: None
  • Trailhead: Avalanche Peak Trailhead

Avalanche Peak offers some of the best seats in the house with unparalleled 360 views of the Rocky Mountains, Lamar Valley, Yellowstone Lake and some of the highest alpine peaks in the area. But these views don’t come cheap, as you’ll climb 2,000 feet in elevation in just over two miles, whoa. The entire trail is very steep with quite a bit of vertical climbing and it’s a leg-burner, but we promise your efforts will be worth it when you reach the top.

Because it is one of the more strenuous trails in the park, it is much quieter than other day hikes, and you can enjoy the view in solitude. The best time to do this hike is between June and October, but it can close early depending on bear activity (they come up here in the early fall to forage for pine nuts).

4. Fairy Falls Trail

A hiker admiring the view of Fairy Falls in Yellowstone National Park
  • Difficulty: Light/moderate
  • Distance: 6.5 miles
  • Duration: 3-5 hours
  • Height: 105 feet
  • Hiking type: Out and back
  • Wheelchair accessible: None
  • Trailhead: Grand Loop Road (located between Midway Geyser Basin and Old Faithful)

If you want to see Yellowstone’s abundant geothermal features, this is the hike for you. The Fairy Falls trail starts about a mile south of Midway Geyser Basin. You’ll cross the Firehole River before climbing to an overlook that offers stunning elevated views of the colorful Grand Prismatic Spring and the steaming Excelsior Geyser. You’ll pass a few small hot springs and then through a gorgeous lodgepole pine forest before arriving at Fairy Falls: Yellowstone’s largest front-country waterfall, cascading off a 200-foot cliff. It’s a mysterious trail that showcases some of the park’s most unique natural wonders. The best time to ride this trail is in the spring and summer, but it can be a wonderful ski in the winter.

5. Electric Peak

Electric Peak in Yellowstone National Park covered in snow
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Distance: 20.6 miles
  • Duration: 1-3 days
  • Height: 3,343 feet
  • Hike type: Out and back
  • Wheelchair accessible: None
  • Trailhead: Glen Creek Trailhead

Would you like to climb the most prominent peak in northern Yellowstone? At 11,000 feet, Electric Peak is the highest mountain in the Gallatin Range (of the Rocky Mountains). It’s a challenging trail with exposed rock edges and class 3 climbing to reach the top, but you’ll be rewarded with incredible views all the way up.

It’s a manageable day hike if the weather is with you and you have a high level of fitness, but you can also spread the journey over two days with an overnight stop at one of the two backcountry campsites located just over the halfway point. If topscratching isn’t your thing, you can hike most of the trail and stop it when you reach the class 3 section. The best time to ride this trail is between June and September when weather conditions are good.

6. Lamar Valley River Trail

A herd of bison dusted with snow in the Lamar Valley
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 8.6 miles
  • Duration: 3-5 hours
  • Height: 780 feet
  • Hike type: Out and back
  • Wheelchair accessible: No (note: several pull-outs have room enough to move around in a wheelchair and there is an accessible restroom at the Lamar River Trunk Road)
  • Trailhead: Lamar River

Located in the heart of the Lamar Valley, this family-friendly hike is a Yellowstone classic. It’s one of your best chances to see the diverse wildlife that lives in the park (Lamar Valley is even nicknamed the “American Serengeti”). Keep your eyes open for entire herds of bison, elk, deer, antelope, bighorn sheep and pronghorn that may be grazing, mingling or just doing their thing. It is also one of the best places in the world for wolf tracking.

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It’s also one of Yellowstone’s most scenic trails, with rolling hills, colorful wildflowers, sagebrush meadows, and plenty of places to sit down for a picnic along the Lamar River. If you are looking for a longer and slightly more strenuous hike, you can continue to Cache Creek.

7. Mammoth Terraces Trail

Mammoth Terraces in Yellowstone National Park
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 2.8 miles
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Height: 300 feet
  • Hike type: Loop
  • Wheelchair accessible: Yes (Upper Mammoth Terrance and some Lower Terrace Boardwalks)
  • Trailhead: Mammoth Terrace parking lot

Mammoth Hot Springs could easily make you think you’re walking on the moon, or at least inside a cave deep underground. These two thermal travertine terraces are home to 50 shallow orange and yellow pools (the dazzling colors are thanks to algae and bacteria that thrive in warm water), gas vents bubbling to the surface and some pretty pungent sulfur smells. The entire trail has a very otherworldly feel to it, and the visual grandeur is definitely worth pinching your nose for. If you feel up to it, you can continue the hike down to the Boiling River, where you can swim in a section of the river where the hot spring water mixes with the cold river water (it’s one of the only safe swimming spots in Yellowstone).

8. Lone Star Geyser Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 4.8 miles
  • Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Height: 121 feet
  • Hike type: Out and back
  • Wheelchair accessible: Yes
  • Trailhead: 3.5 miles south of Old Faithful Overpass

Lone Star is one of Yellowstone’s largest cone geysers, and it was given this name because of its isolated location. Every three hours, Lone Star erupts, spraying water about 45 feet into the air for five minutes. This is followed by a loud hissing sound as more water and steam shoot out for another 20 minutes. You’ll probably see at least some smaller ones steamy action happens no matter when you visit, but it’s worth planning your hike around an eruption (it can be a bit busier around this time, but there are far fewer spectators than its Old Faithful counterpart).

You can bring a picnic to keep you entertained while you wait. The paved path takes you along a quiet stretch of the Firehole River and through a pine forest with beautiful views of the meadow. If you don’t feel like the walk or you’re pressed for time, you can also cycle down there and jump off when you reach the barrier near the geyser.

Yellowstone National Park Hiking Safety Tips

Hiking is one of the best ways to see Yellowstone, but it’s important to do so safely. The park is huge and the weather can change quickly. Below are some tips:

  • Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return
  • Be aware of wildlife (especially bears) and know how to travel safely in bear country
  • See wildlife from a distance and almost never animals
  • Stay on the trails and boardwalks
  • Check the daily weather forecast and be aware of lightning strikes above the tree line
  • Wear appropriate clothing and pack a few warm layers in your daypack if the temperature drops
  • Stay hydrated and bring plenty of water and high energy snacks
  • Do not enter the hot springs or geothermal features
  • Do not go beyond the marked zones near the hot springs

Whether you want to see gushing geyser pools up close or challenge yourself to summit Yellowstone’s highest peaks, we promise that every trail will be an adventure. Where will you let your curiosity take you?

Want to experience all that Yellowstone has to offer? Check out ours Yellowstone National Park tours.

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