12 Best Hikes in Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park Overview

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 National Park that you must explore but there are many more that will catch your eye!

StateWyoming; Montana; Idaho
Nearest Metro AreaBozeman, MT
Area Size2,221,766 acres
EstablishedMarch 1, 1872
Hiking Trails1,100 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Yellowstone National Park

South Rim Loop (Canyon Village)
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Photo by Tim Lumley

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. This is widely considered one of the best hikes in Yellowstone National Park and one you will certainly want to hit on your visit!

  • 5.0 mile loop
  • 500′ elevation gain
  • Easy
Fairy Falls (Old Faithful)
Fairy Falls and fall color
Fairy Falls and fall color, Photo by Yellowstone National Park

Several highlights on this trail include Grand Prismatic, 200′ tall Fairy Falls, and Imperial Geyser. This is one of the more popular and best hikes in Yellowstone National 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′ elevation gain
  • Easy
North Rim Trail (Canyon Village)
Inspiration Point
Inspiration Point, Photo by Tim Lumley

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′ elevation gain
  • Moderate
Mystic Falls (Old Faithful)
Mystic Falls (Little Firehole River, Yellowstone National Park, northwestern Wyoming, USA)
Mystic Falls, Photo by James St. John

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 mile loop
  • 600′ elevation gain
  • Moderate
Uncle Tom’s Trail (Canyon Village)
The view of Lower Falls from midway down Uncle Tom's Trail
The view of Lower Falls from midway down Uncle Tom’s Trail, Photo by Yellowstone National Park

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′ elevation gain
  • Moderate
Mount Washburn Trail (Canyon Village)
Mount Washburn
Mount Washburn, Photo by Yellowstone National Park

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 Yellowstone National Park. The trailhead is located at the Dunraven Pass parking area off of Grand Loop Road.

  • 7.4 miles out and back
  • 1350′ elevation gain
  • Strenuous
Avalanche Peak (Fishing Bridge/Lake Village)
Hikers on Avalanche Peak
Hikers on Avalanche Peak, Photo by Yellowstone National Park

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′ elevation gain
  • Strenuous
Storm Point Loop (Fishing Bridge/Lake Village)
Storm Point on Yellowstone Lake
Storm Point on Yellowstone Lake, Photo by Yellowstone National Park

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 mile loop
  • 100′ elevation gain
  • Easy
Bunsen Peak (Mammoth Hot Springs)
Views from the Bunsen Peak Trail
Views from the Bunsen Peak Trail, Photo by Yellowstone National Park

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′ elevation gain
  • Strenuous
Observation Point (Old Faithful)
Old Faithful, Yellowstone NP 9-11
Old Faithful, Photo by Don Graham

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′ elevation gain
  • Moderate
Elephant Back Mountain Trail (Fishing Bridge/Lake Village)
Taking a break on top of Elephant Back Mountain
On Top of Elephant Back Mountain, Photo by Yellowstone National Park

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′ elevation gain
  • Strenuous
Boiling River (Mammoth Hot Springs)
Boiling River north of Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park [PANO]
Boiling River North of Mammoth Hot Springs, Photo by Wesley Fryer

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 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 elevation gain
  • Easy

Featured Image: Sunrise over Lamar River, Photo by Yellowstone National Park

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