12 Best Day Hikes in Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is the world’s first national park and one of the most famous for good reason. From geysers like Old Faithful, to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, to Yellowstone Lake, this park has it all! Whether you come for a day or a week, this place will stay with you forever. The scenery is breathtaking and it is home to the world’s largest collection of plants and animals. Hikers, be sure to plan ahead as there are more than 1,000 miles of trails in the park. Below is our list of best hikes in Yellowstone that you must explore but there are many more that will catch your eye! Official Website.

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1. South Rim Loop (Canyon Village)

This loop combines a few trails but offers some of the best views of the canyon in the park. Beginning near the Uncle Tom’s parking area, travel east towards Clear Lake. After Clear Lake, take a left at the junction toward Lily Pad Lake. You can either start heading back towards Artist’s Point or add another mile and visit Point Sublime for an amazing view! After visiting Point Sublime and Artist’s Point, head back toward the trailhead with amazing views of the Lower Falls along the way.

  • 5.0 miles – Loop
  • 500′ gain
  • Easy

2. Fairy Falls (Old Faithful)

Several highlights on this trail include Grand Prismatic, 200′ tall Fairy Falls, and Imperial Geyser. This is one of the more popular trails in the park so parking is very limited. The trailhead is located at a parking area on the Madison to Old Faithful road.

  • 6.6 miles – Out and back
  • 200′ gain
  • Easy

3. North Rim Trail (Canyon Village)

North Rim Trail follows the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from Inspiration Point and the Lower Falls to South Rim Drive that runs across Yellowstone River. From Inspiration Point, you travel south to Grandview, this 1st mile is away from the main road and the more secluded section of the hike. After Grandview, you will travel to Lookout Point and then to a short spur trail that leads to the Brink of the Lower Falls. From the Lower Falls, hikers will continue to the Upper Falls and then on until the trail ends at the bridge that crosses the river. Portions of this trail are heavily trafficked with people leaving the road for a closer view of the falls. The trailhead is located next to a small parking loop near Inspiration Point.

  • 3.2 miles – one-way
  • 300′ gain
  • Moderate

4. Mystic Falls (Old Faithful)

This is a relatively short loop where hikers will pass a number of pools and geysers on their way to the 70′ Mystic Falls. There is a scenic Madison Plateau that offers spectacular views after a 500′ climb. The trailhead is located at the Biscuit Basin parking area off of Grand Loop Road.

  • 3.5 miles – Loop
  • 600′ gain
  • Moderate

5. Uncle Tom’s Trail (Canyon Village)

This ‘trail’ is less of a hiking trail and more of a giant set of stairs. More than 300 steps will get you to an observation platform directly in front of Lower Falls. Get ready for a workout! The trailhead is located next to a parking area off of South Rim Road.

  • 0.4 miles – Out and back
  • 400′ gain
  • Moderate

6. Mount Washburn Trail (Canyon Village)

Starting at Dunraven Pass, this trail ascends an old road to the mountain top. The views are incredible the whole way up and get even better the nearer you get to the lookout. This is widely considered one of the best hikes in the park. The trailhead is located at the Dunraven Pass parking area off of Grand Loop Road.

  • 7.4 miles – Out and back
  • 1350′ gain
  • Strenuous

7. Avalanche Peak (Fishing Bridge/Lake Village)

This is a very difficult trail but widely considered a favorite amongst Yellowstone veterans. At the top of Avalanche Peak, hikers are rewarded with some of the best views in the park of Yellowstone Lake and surrounding area. The trailhead is located 19 miles east of Fishing Bridge junction.

  • 4.2 miles – Out and back
  • 2100′ gain
  • Strenuous

8. Storm Point Loop (Fishing Bridge/Lake Village)

This is a nice, easy trail that takes hikers through a meadow to the lakefront of Yellowstone Lake. Caution is advised as this is a prime grizzly area. The trailhead is located off of East Entrance Road on the north side of Yellowstone Lake.

  • 2.3 miles – Loop
  • 100′ gain
  • Easy

9. Bunsen Peak (Mammoth Hot Springs)

This trail has steep climbs through the forest with several switchbacks until you reach the summit but the views from the top are well worth it. Cathedral Rock, a large rock outcrop, will be clearly visible on the north side of Bunsen Peak. The trailhead is located 5 miles south of Mammoth on Grand Loop Road.

  • 4.6 miles – Out and back
  • 1300′ gain
  • Strenuous

10. Observation Point (Old Faithful)

This trail offers an incredible vantage point of Old Faithful and the entire Upper Geyser Basin. Old Faithful is the largest, most predictable, and most famous geyser in Yellowstone National Park and erupts every 60-110 minutes. The trailhead is located near the Old Faithful Visitor Center.

  • 2.2 miles – Out and back
  • 200′ gain
  • Moderate

11. Elephant Back Mountain Trail (Fishing Bridge/Lake Village)

Not the most entertaining trail that climbs through a pine forest but the views of Yellowstone Lake at the top are tough to beat. The trail splits to either direction towards the top allowing hikers to make it a loop before the return down. The trailhead is located off of Grand Loop Road in the Lake Village area.

  • 3.5 miles – Loop
  • 800′ gain
  • Strenuous

12. Boiling River (Mammoth Hot Springs)

Look out for bald eagles as you travel along Gardner River to one of the only legal swimming areas in Yellowstone. Hot spring waters mix with the cold river waters to create a an enjoyable soak – make sure to bring your swimsuits! The trailhead is located between Mammoth and the North Entrance where the road crosses the river.

  • 1.3 miles – Out and back
  • No gain
  • Easy

 

If you want to do Yellowstone right, click on the image below for all of the best tips, maps, and can’t miss spots before starting your trip!

 

 

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