hikes in Yellowstone National Park
The oldest national park in the United States, Yellowstone is one of the country’s premier natural attractions. Covering 2.2 million acres of wild, jaw-dropping wilderness, this park is a truly remarkable place, known as much for its dramatic mountains as for its steaming hot springs. Yellowstone is a feast for the senses: expect sights, smells and sounds that you simply won’t find anywhere else.
Yellowstone National Park is perhaps best known as a hub of volcanic activity – over 60% of the world’s geysers can be found within its borders. These incredible hot springs periodically erupt in a cloud of sulfurous steam, shooting boiling water high up into the sky. Surrounded by vibrant acidic pools that dazzle with their rainbow colors, Yellowstone’s springs and geysers are like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
However, there’s more to this stunning natural park than Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring. Keen hikers will love exploring the depths of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, or ascending to the heights of Avalanche Peak. Wherever you go, you can expect lush forest, wildflower-studded trails, expansive meadows, rushing creeks and tumbling waterfalls. What’s more, you’ll have the chance to spot some of the rich wildlife that calls Yellowstone home, from bears to elk, moose, bison and wolves.
What are you waiting for? Put hiking in Yellowstone National Park on your bucket list today, and start planning your trip with our handy guide. Happy hiking!
The 10 Greatest Hikes in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park covers a vast area of wilderness and offers some of the most varied hiking in this corner of the United States. There’s really something for everyone here, whether you’re travelling with kids or looking for an adventure out in the wild. Indeed, one of the reasons Yellowstone is so popular with hikers is due to its incredibly diverse scenery. You’ll find towering peaks and dramatic ridges, plunging gorges, cascading waterfalls and wildflower meadows, not to mention the steaming geysers and hot springs. Amid this spectacular scenery, there are trails to suit every age and fitness level, from flat walks along the valley bottom, to steep climbs on to dazzling rocky ridges. Whatever you’re looking for, Yellowstone has it all!
- Norris Geyser Hike: This flat, easy hike along the Norris Geyser Trail is one of the best easy hikes in Yellowstone National Park, and the ideal introduction to its unusual natural attractions: the geysers. As you pass through a stark, otherworldly landscape you’ll see steam rising from the ground and smell the sulfur in the air. This is a great option if you’re looking for an easy hike, as the trail can be made shorter depending on your available time and energy levels.
- Mystic Falls Hike: The enigmatically named Mystic Falls make the perfect destination for a family hike in Yellowstone National Park! The trail is calm, secluded and well maintained, passing intermittently between lush forest and wildflower-studded meadows. At the culmination of the trail, the falls certainly don’t disappoint, with pretty cascades and hidden geysers.
- Sky Rim Hike: The Sky Rim trail is the classic Yellowstone hike: a long loop along a rolling ridge, with simply jaw-dropping views over the park. The rewards come early on this long hike, and just get better and better as the day wears on, with majestic mountain views, wildflower meadows, and impossibly craggy peaks. Without doubt, this is one of the best day hikes in Yellowstone National Park.
- Avalanche Peak Hike: This trail up to Avalanche Peak is one of the best challenging hikes in Yellowstone National Park, with glorious views over alpine valleys and otherworldly peaks. You’ll need plenty of energy, as the climb is steep, but once you crest the rocky ridge you’ll have spectacular views over Hoyt Peak, Grizzly Peak, Sylvan Lake and Top Notch Peak, not to mention the vast expanse of Yellowstone Lake.
- South Rim Hike: Another Yellowstone classic, this relatively short and easy trail is the best way to see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, with some wonderful views of the Lower Yellowstone Falls from the viewpoint at the beginning and end of Uncle Tom’s Trail. It’s also possible to combine this hike with the route from Artist Point to Point Sublime for a wonderful day out.
- Upper Geyser Basin Hike: A trip to see the iconic geysers is a must on any Yellowstone itinerary, and this hike is an excellent way to experience them. Beginning at Old Faithful, the trail passes along boardwalks that snake through a series of geysers and inkpots. This is an easy, accessible trail in the midst of some of Yellowstone’s classic scenery.
- Brink of the Lower Falls Hike: With a steep descent down to the bottom of the Yellowstone Canyon, this hike is a wonderful way to experience the immense, cascading waterfall that gushes down through the gorge. The climb back to the top is hard work, but the incredible view of the canyon and Yellowstone Falls makes it all worthwhile!
- Mount Washburn Hike: This moderate trail climbs gently up to the summit of Mount Washburn, offering remarkable views all the way to the top. You’ll have a vista that takes in wildflower meadows, dense forest, and gaping canyons, in addition to the surrounding craggy peaks. Watch out for the infamous winds at the top – you may need to hold on to your hat!
- Artist Point to Point Sublime Hike: This is a spectacular hike that will take you along the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, with incredible views all along the trail. The route is easy to follow and not too strenuous as it meanders up and down over the rugged scenery, but take care with children as there is no fence between the path and the plunging cliffs. The dazzling colors of the canyon provide a feast for the eyes all the way along the route, making this one of the best hikes in Yellowstone National Park.
- Bunsen Peak Hike: The summit of Bunsen Peak offers yet another glorious perspective on the dramatic scenery of Yellowstone National Park. You’ll have a stunning view of the Golden Gate Canyon, Electric Peak, the Gallatin Range, and the Swan Lake Flats just below. This is a moderate trail that makes for a good training hike. The elevation gain is consistent but not too steep, and the views are immensely satisfying!
When Is The Best Time To Hike In Yellowstone National Park?
The best time to hike in Yellowstone National Park is during late summer and early autumn, when the trails will be quieter and still clear of snow. The hiking season begins as early as April, although many of the higher elevation trails will be covered in snow until early July, and some of the campgrounds will be closed until early May. However, a spring visit can be a wonderful time to see the park emerge from winter, and is a good time to catch a glimpse of bison and black bears.
In summer, the weather is at its best, with warm, sunny days and low levels of precipitation. However, in July you’ll be competing for space at the campgrounds and out on the trails, with an average of 1 million visitors descending on the park in one month alone. As a result, we’d recommend visiting in early fall, when the weather is still warm, the trails are clear, and the autumn colors make the scenery simply stunning. It is possible to visit Yellowstone during winter, and this can also be a remarkable experience. The park is cold and covered in snow, meaning that you’ll be restricted to the lower valleys. However, the sight of the steaming Mammoth Hot Springs, surrounded by crisp snow and glittering ice, is reason enough to brave the cold weather!
Other Outdoor Activities In Yellowstone National Park
Although hiking is the most popular thing to do, there are lots of other outdoor activities in Yellowstone National Park! Yellowstone is a wonderful place for backpacking adventures, with lots of multi-day trails and well-equipped campgrounds across the park. It’s also possible to have plenty of adventures on two wheels, with lots of biking trails, or to get out on the water with canoeing, rafting and paddle boarding. You’ll also have the chance to go wildlife watching, horseback riding, and take informative tours of the geysers and hot springs that are dotted around the park.
How To Plan A Trip To Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is a bucket list adventure for lovers of the great outdoors, and if this has encouraged you to start planning your trip, we’ve got all the information you’ll need! Make sure to check out our complete guides to planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park, in addition to a list of the top 10 hikes to put on your bucket list. Finally, just to give you a little more hiking inspiration, don’t miss our guide to spending the perfect day in Yellowstone National Park.
Frequently-Asked-Questions About Yellowstone National Park
Is hiking in Yellowstone dangerous?
Yellowstone is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the United States, and on the whole, it is considered a very safe place to hike. However, accidents do happen on the trail, and in Yellowstone, it’s important to take particular care around the geysers and hot springs. The vast majority of injuries and deaths that have occurred in Yellowstone have been as a result of burns sustained at hot springs, so make sure to follow advice and stick to the marked viewing areas.
Do I need bear spray in Yellowstone National Park?
Yellowstone National Park is the only place south of Canada that is home to both grizzly bears and black bears, which means that you’ll need to take sufficient precautions when hiking. It’s recommended to carry bear spray, to hike in groups and make plenty of noise on the trail, and to store food securely. Encounters between bears and humans are relatively rare, with an average of only one bear attack per year in the park.
How many miles of hiking are in Yellowstone National Park?
There are more than 900 miles of hiking trails in Yellowstone National Park, spread over the park’s 2.2 million acres of wild land.
How much does it cost to go to Yellowstone National Park?
A 7-day pass to Yellowstone National Park costs $35 per vehicle, or $70 for an annual pass. If you’re travelling on foot or by bicycle, you’ll be charged $20 per person for entry.
The best hikes in Yellowstone National Park
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