Hiking is one of the most rewarding activities that you can do in any national park, and especially in Yellowstone. Whether you are a first time visitor to the park, or a veteran visitor looking to make the most of your trip, finding one (or more!) day hikes in Yellowstone is almost certainly on your to-do list. We have compiled a list of some of the most popular, most beautiful, and most enjoyable hikes in Yellowstone, for hikers of all different backgrounds and experience levels. Hopefully, this list can help you find the right hike for you and your family.
Yellowstone National Park spans an impressive 2.2 million acres, and boasts over 900 miles of hiking trails. It is very easy to see why this national park is such a popular hiking destination. There is truly something for everyone in this park, whether you are looking for day hikes to waterfalls, canyons, or geysers, or whether you are a rugged backcountry hiker. You will need a permit for backcountry hiking, if you plan to stay overnight, but no permits are needed for day hiking. Ranger stations and visitor centers have up to date information on the status of the trails, so be sure to stop by.
With so many trails, how do you choose which ones you want to hike? Well, we are here to help with that decision. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best hikes in Yellowstone for every level of hiker.
Storm Point Loop Trail
Storm Point Loop is an easy, fun hike with a variety of views. Located in the Fishing Bridge and Lake Village area, this hike is a flat loop that takes you through forest to a peninsula that juts out into Lake Yellowstone. This hike is often less crowded, so you can take a peaceful walk. We recommend going at sunset or sunrise, if you can manage it- the views are simply unbeatable, especially for such a low effort hike.
Mystic Falls is a beautiful hike, taking you through a new growth forest to Mystic Falls itself. The falls are named for the steam that comes off of them, created by geothermal activity, which many visitors describe as eerie. This hike is an easy difficulty. If you want to continue your hike after seeing the falls, this trail meets up with Fairy Creek Trail, which takes you to Biscuit basin Overlook.
Uncle Tom’s Trail (From Artist Point)
This is a moderate difficulty hike, due to the elevation change and steepness of it. This hike takes you from the top of the Grand Canyon, to the Yellowstone, to the base of the Lower Falls. The elevation change is around 500 feet, at a very steep angle, but the scenery is absolutely worth it. There are plenty of places to stop and rest along the way if needed.
Elephant Back Mountain Trail
This hike may be classified as a moderate difficulty, but it doesn’t feel like it! There is an 800 foot elevation gain, over a relatively short distance, but the trail is well maintained and doesn’t feel as steep as it is. If you make the climb, you are rewarded with beautiful views across Yellowstone Lake. We recommend climbing in late afternoon or early evening, as the light at this time of day makes for spectacular views.
South Rim of the Canyon
Located in the Canyon area, this hike is a must-see. The trail takes you along the rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, allowing for incredible views of the canyon and the falls. When done completely, the trail is a 4.5 mile loop. Be sure to stop at Artist Point, where you will have an incredible view of the whole of the canyon. This hike is picturesque, due to the river and rock formations of the canyon, and is an incredible way to experience the park at only a moderate difficulty.
Mount Washburn Trail
Now, we move into the more strenuous trails, for any more experienced hikers, or those just looking for a challenge. Mount Washburn is located in the canyon area. During this hike, you’ll see some of the most iconic features of Yellowstone, like the Old Faithful Geyser Basin and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, as well as weaving through a forest with beautiful mountaintop views. This hike is known for its wildflowers, which bloom during July. Bighorn sheep are often spotted along this hike as well.
This may be a strenuous hike, but it is definitely worth the effort that you will expend. Many Yellowstone veterans describe this hike as their favorite in the park. You will wind through beautiful forests filled with wildflowers, and even spot some snow no matter what time of year you attempt the hike. When you reach the summit, a whole 2100 feet higher than when you began, you’ll be rewarded with unparalleled views of Lake Yellowstone.
Be sure to take advantage of the hiking opportunities offered in Yellowstone! No matter your experience or energy level, there is a way for you to experience the beauty of the park.