The 10 Best Hiking Trails in Yellowstone National Park
North America’s first national park, Yellowstone, is one year short of celebrating its 150th birthday. Located in Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park is one of the premier parks in the United States. With geological formations, wildlife, hydrothermal features, and a supervolcano, this arguably most famous national park has activities for everyone. So if you’re looking to hike, camp, or watch wildlife, there are few better places available than Yellowstone National Park.
In this post, we’re going to review our top 10 hikes in Yellowstone National Park. We will include hikes for every skill level and give you a good idea of what to expect so you can get the most out of your trip.
With the fame of this park comes the crowds. While it is open year-round, the park only operates at full capacity from roughly the beginning of June through October. If you can plan trips for fall, you’ll have fewer people to contend with, although Yellowstone is still a worldwide draw. If you’re willing to brave Yellowstone in the summer, the scenery is well worth the effort.
Yellowstone is teeming with wildlife with 15 different large mammal species, including bighorn sheep, bison, grizzly bears, mountain lions, and wolves. Be sure you know what to do when you see a wild animal before you enter the park.
Please remember that these animals are wild, and you should not approach them under any circumstances. Of course, take lots of pictures and marvel at them, but for your safety and that of the animals, refrain from getting too close or trying to feed them.
As always, plan ahead. Check for safety advisories and pack the necessary gear and provisions. Don’t forget the bear spray! A safe hike is a happy hike!
There’s no better beginning to a Yellowstone National Park trip than a hike to the most famous draw of the entire park. You may have seen pictures of it everywhere, but there’s no substitute for experiencing Old Faithful’s eruptions for yourself. There are about 17 eruptions per day. Usually, the visitor’s center will have predicted eruption times posted. If that isn’t available, the predictions are usually posted online as well! Note that while prediction times are usually fairly accurate, the visitors center can’t predict with 100% accuracy.
Difficulty Level: Easy Distance: 0.7 miles Total Elevation: 16 feet Type: Loop
GRAND PRISMATIC HOT SPRING
One of the most popular trails in Yellowstone for all skill levels, the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring Trail is a great trail to start your day on. At just over a mile and a half, this heavily tracked out and back is a great way to warm up your legs for a long day of hiking or assess your skill level if you’re a beginner or traveling with younger family members. If you want to experience a Yellowstone hot spring, this is the place to be.
Difficulty Level: Easy Distance: 1.6 miles Total Elevation: 200 feet Type: Out and Back
MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS AREA TRAIL
If you’re looking for a trail that pushes you a bit while still not being overly difficult the Mammoth Hot Springs Area Trail might be just what you need. At three and a half miles, you’ll have plenty of time to spend on the trail without wearing yourself out too much. If this trek sounds like it’s for you, you’ll be rewarded with a waterfall view!
Difficulty Level: Easy Distance: 3.5 miles Total Elevation: 561 feet Type: Loop
BRINK OF THE LOWER FALLS TRAIL
Don’t let the short distance fool you; this trail isn’t a cakewalk. While definitely manageable, this trail of switchbacks gains some elevation and gives a great payout at the top. Note that the trail is paved the whole way through and thus should be accessible by all.
Difficulty Level: Moderate Distance: 0.7 miles Total Elevation: 265 feet Type: Out and Back
MYSTIC FALLS, FAIRY Falls, AND LITTLE FIREHOLE LOOP
With slightly fewer travelers venturing up this loop, you may get some relative space in a densely packed park. If you time it carefully, you can see Old Faithful erupt from the top of the trail on clear days. As you may have assumed from the name, this trail has several different features to offer, including geysers at the start leading into a forest later on.
Difficulty Level: Moderate Distance: 3.5 miles Total Elevation: 606 feet Type: Loop
CLEAR LAKE ARTIST’S POINT LOOP TRAIL
Head out on this loop, and you’ll see why it has the name it does! This popular loop will take you to Clear Lake and help you understand why artists might be inspired by it. Please note that Clear Lake has hidden thermal activity, so you’ll want to stay out of the water and observe from the bank. The first mile or so of this trail can be tough, but it gets more manageable as it goes on.
Difficulty Level: Moderate Distance: 3.9 miles Total Elevation: 423 feet Type: Loop
UPPER GEYSER BASIN AND OLD FAITHFUL OBSERVATION POINT LOOP
While the title is a mouthful, if you’re looking to experience as many of Yellowstone’s unique features as you can, this trail has to be on your itinerary. If you want to see Old Faithful, but the Old Faithful Geyser Loop is just too short of a trail for you, this 5-mile loop could be a great compromise. This trail has varying difficulty levels, with the first two miles being for the more experienced (except for the flat first half mile).
Difficulty Level: Moderate Distance: 4.9 miles Total Elevation: 357 feet Type: Loop
If you’re looking not just to walk around but to bag some peaks while you’re at it, look no further! One of the taller peaks on the east side of Yellowstone, Avalanche Peak, is an approachable hike while still being strenuous enough to feel accomplished by the end. To save you from heartbreak ahead of time, there is a false summit before reaching the peak. Knowing that it’s more than worth it to power through the false peak and make it to the views at the end.
Difficulty Level: Hard Distance: 4.7 miles Total Elevation: 2,073 feet Type: Out and Back
SEVEN MILE HOLE TRAIL
At just under ten miles long, the name is a bit confusing. However, if you have the time and the desire to get away from the crowds, you’ll find this journey to solitude to be a welcome change. With only moderate traffic, especially in the earlier months of the season, this is a great way to test your hiking strength. Make sure you know what you’re in for and that you have the correct gear, and you’ll be ready to go!
Difficulty Level: Hard Distance: 9.7 miles Total Elevation: 2,043 feet Type: Out and Back
UNION FALLS TRAIL
The biggest challenge on this list comes in the form of the Union Falls Trail. At 15 miles long, round trip, it’s a full day’s work even for a seasoned hiker. While a popular trail, the only company you’ll have out there will likely be explorers as seasoned as yourself. Take the plunge and maybe make some friends along the way! Your reward for your hard work? The second highest waterfall in the park, measuring an astonishing 260 feet high!
Difficulty Level: Hard Distance: 15.4 miles Total Elevation: 1,938 feet Type: Out and Back
Can’t wait to visit America’s oldest national park? If you’ve finished this list and need to hit the road immediately, why not rent a fully decked-out campervan for your travels? No need to worry about comfort and noise when you have a bed and kitchen to come back to at the end of each day!
Have a great trip, and please recreate responsibly!
Cathedral Gorge State Park is the crown jewel of eastern Nevada. Rainwater erosion in the Meadow Valley Wash made the park as we know it today! While you might not think there is much to enjoy in the eastern part of the silver state, you’d be surprised! There is more to Nevada than just Las...
While national parks are often associated with crowds, Great Basin National Park is in the top 10 for least visited national parks in the US. According to the visitor center and NPS statistics, there are only about 90,000 annual visitors to this overlooked gem of eastern Nevada! Nevada has two national parks; however, Great Basin...
Straddling the border between California and Nevada is Lake Tahoe. Surrounded by wilderness and national forest service land, Lake Tahoe is a world of its own. Whether you want to paddleboard and kayak across the lake itself, hike the Desolation Wilderness, or enjoy the city of South Lake Tahoe, you’ll have more options than you...