There are about 1,000 miles of trail in Yellowstone National Park, so finding the one that is right for you can be difficult. Additionally, about 80% of the park is covered by forests, so finding a trail that leads to views instead of just walking through a tree tunnel can seem overwhelming.
That's what we're here for! As experts of Yellowstone's hiking trails, we're here to share some insight on the best trails in Yellowstone National Park.
In our opinion, the top eight best day hikes in Yellowstone are (in no particular order):
1. Lamar River Trail to Cache Creek:
Distance: 8 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 785 feet
Trailhead: Lamar River Trailhead
This is one of the most classic day hikes in Yellowstone National Park. Known as the Serengeti of the West, Lamar Valley is home to big landscapes and big wildlife. It is common to see bison, pronghorn, wolves, bears, badgers, and more! This trail takes you through Lamar Valley, where the first few miles are flat and you can see for miles in these wide-open meadows. Eventually, you will reach Cache Creek, which is a great spot of lunch and soaking in your surroundings before you turn around. This is one of the best chances to see wildlife and to get away from it all.
2. Avalanche Peak:
Distance: 4.5 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2,070 feet
Trailhead: Avalanche Peak Trailhead
The trail to Avalanche Peak is a steep one, gaining over two thousand feet of elevation in just over two miles to the top. But it is so worth it! The views at the top are so different that anything else you will see in Yellowstone, giving you eyes on Yellowstone Lake and all the way to the Grand Tetons. This hike is tough, but manageable; just make sure you have water, snacks and layers for the possible wind on the peak. It's hard to pick a favorite day hike in Yellowstone, but this is at the very top of the list-- you must do this hike!
3. Grizzly Lake:
Distance: 7 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,120 feet
Trailhead: Grizzly Lake Trailhead
This trail leads us through wide-open meadows and old burn forests, to a spectacular vantage point, looking down on Grizzly Lake, with Mount Holmes in the background. After soaking up this view, you can hike down to the banks of Grizzly Lake and dip your toes in the crystal-clear water. It is common to see wildlife along the trail and on the shores of the lake. This trail is perfect for those who want to relax and get away from the crowds in Yellowstone.
4. Cougar Creek:
Distance: 7 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
Trailhead: Seven Mile Bridge Trailhead
Another personal favorite, this quiet and secluded trail is a great option for guests staying in West Yellowstone or the Big Sky area. Starting on the Gneiss Creek Trail, you will hike along the Madison River for the first mile. Once you meet up with the Cougar Creek Cabin Trail, you will travel through a forest affected by fire (but teeming with new growth), until you reach an open meadow, surrounded by mountains. The trail is through rolling hills with spacious views all around. At about 3.5 miles, you will reach the Cougar Creek Patrol Cabin, where you can watch the wildlife (we saw SO many marmots during our break at the Patrol Cabin) and take in the stunning views.
5. Buffalo Plateau:
Distance: 6-8 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,230 feet
Trailhead: Hellroaring Trailhead
Oh no, they're quickly becoming all of my favorites-- see, this is why you just can't choose, they're all so good!
Starting from the trailhead, you will head downhill, getting big view of the Custer-Gallatin National Forest. At the bottom of the hill, you get to cross the famous suspension bridge over Hellroaring Creek, then through a wide-open meadow. Every gradual step uphill offers tremendous views of the Gallatin Range and Custer-Gallatin National Forest. Buffalo Plateau is true to its name-- bison and other animals dot the hillside. It is common to see old bones and carcasses from wolf kills and shed elk antlers accumulating over the years. There are many good turn around spots, but you can hike for as long as you like before headed back the way you can. Make sure you leave time to just sit and take it all in-- this is a view that you want to last a lifetime.
6. Mount Washburn:
Distance: 6.8 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,395 feet
Trailhead: Dunraven Pass Trailhead
This is one of the most classic day hikes in Yellowstone National Park. The trail is moderately steep up to the fire lookout tower on Mount Washburn's summit. In the spring, the trail is lined with multi-colored wildflowers, and big horn sheep can be seen on the rocky cliffs. From the top of Mount Washburn, you can see for miles and miles-- all the way to the Grand Tetons, the Beartooth Mountains and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which is pretty amazing!
7. Beaver Ponds:
Distance: 5 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 350 feet
Trailhead: Beaver Ponds Trailhead, behind Mammoth Hotel
A great hike to look over the northern range and Mammoth Hot Springs, the Beaver Ponds trail is perfect for all ages and skill levels. The trail starts behind the Mammoth Hotel, and climbs up to a sagebrush meadow, and true to it's name, Beaver Pond. Although you may see beavers along the pond, it is more likely that you will see elk, pronghorn or even black bear along the trail. You will get amazing views of the mountains that surround northern Yellowstone, and eventually, the trail leads you down to Mammoth Hot Springs, so you can end by walking the terrace boardwalks.
8. Storm Point:
Distance: 2.3 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: negligible
Trailhead: Indian Pond pullout, Storm Point Trailhead
This quick hike is great for visitors who want to experience the vastness of Yellowstone Lake. Starting in the meadow that is home to Indian Pond, the trail leads you to a scenic view of Yellowstone Lake right from the get-go, and through a forest of pine trees to wind-swept Storm Point. Spend some time on the point and take in the views of the largest alpine lake (above 7,000 feet) in North America, with the Absaroka Mountains in the background. The trail eventually loops back to the trailhead, but be on the lookout for wildlife along the trail-- marmots, foxes and coyotes often frequent this area!
Come experience the solitude of Yellowstone National Park on a Nomadic By Nature guided backpacking trip! Leave the hustle and bustle of everyday life behind, and find peace in Yellowstone's backcountry.
Featured Trip: Cascade Corner
“Cascade Corner” refers to the southwest corner of the park, and it’s easy to see why — this guided trip through Yellowstone follows the Bechler River and its many cascading waterfalls. You have the chance to experience the solitude of backcountry geysers, soak in hot springs, gaze into crystal-clear rivers, and enjoy the vast and expansive Bechler Meadows. This backpacking trip offers a little bit of everything.
Come see why so many people call this the best backpacking trip in all of Yellowstone!