9 Best Hikes in Yellowstone National Park

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We’ve got the best hikes in Yellowstone National Park ranging from easy to challenging. The scenic hiking trails we’ve selected offer jaw-dropping views,  geysers, colorful wildflowers, wildlife and so much more. 

Yellowstone offers an incredible 250 hiking trails. That’s 900 miles (1449 km) of trails.

And even if you want to get out of the car and not go for a real hike, you’re covered with 15 miles (24 km) of boardwalks.

With so many to choose from, finding the best hikes in Yellowstone National Park can seem a little daunting. So we’ve narrowed it down to the best trails for every level of hiker.

The most famous attraction in Yellowstone, Old Faithful Geyser
Old Faithful is Yellowstone’s most popular attraction.

Highlights of Hiking in Yellowstone 

Yellowstone is the United States’ first national park. It spans three states; Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. The park’s claim to fame is its 10,000 geothermal features.

The upper geyser basin is the most visited area in Yellowstone and contains the largest concentration of hot springs found anywhere in the world. That includes Yellowstone’s most famous geyser, Old Faithful.  It was the first geyser to be named and definitely lives up to its name, erupting every 20 minutes to 2 hours. It’s the most reliable in the park, so you can expect crowds. 

It’s one of just 6 geysers that rangers predict eruptions for of the 500 geysers found in the park. Geyser eruptions for the most part are highly unpredictable. 

While the upper geyser basin is popular, there are over 150 geysers in the area. You can avoid some of the crowds by exploring the others after you’ve watched Old Faithful.

Or even better, choose geysers that require hiking to visit – a quick way to thin out the crowds. Since, surprisingly, most visitors to Yellowstone National Park don’t hike, opting for scenic drives instead and getting out at the most popular spots. 

bison on the road in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is a hotspot for wildlife like bison

Besides the geysers, you’ll find many lakes, waterfalls, dense forests and beautiful wildflower meadows to be explored. Its many natural features make it a treasure trove of scenic hiking trails that every avid nature lover needs to explore. 

The park is also known for its fantastic wildlife that includes big mammals such as grizzly bears, wolves, coyotes, bison, elk and moose. Before planning your hike, check with the Visitor Center for any closures that may occur due to weather, wildlife or fires. 

And if you enjoy backpacking, you’re in the right place. Yellowstone offers an incredible 293 backcountry campsites which can be accessed by some of our favorite hikes

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Best Time to Hike in Yellowstone

you can find boardwalk hikes in Yellowstone so there's something for every level of hiker
Hike to Norris Geyser Basin is on a Boardwalk

During winter Yellowstone gets loads of snow which usually doesn’t melt until late spring. The severe winter weather often causes road and facility closures which can impact your visit. It’s much better suited for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. 

The best time to visit for hiking is between summer and fall when the weather is more temperate – the perfect time to check out some of the 250 hiking trails.

During the summer months, the park remains open 24/7 so you’re free to enter and exit at any time. 

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The Best Easy Hikes in Yellowstone National Park 

Grand Prismatic Overlook Trail

Trail Length: 1.6 miles/2.6 km
Elevation Difference: 135 feet / 41 meters 
Trail Type: Out-and-back route
Trailhead: Fairy Falls Trailhead, 1 mile (1.6 km) south of Midway Geiser Basin

Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook is an easy trail that leads you to the most photographed thermal feature in Yellowstone National Park
View from the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook Trail

This is one of the easiest hikes in Yellowstone that’s child-friendly and leads to the most photographed thermal feature in all of Yellowstone, the colorful Grand Prismatic Spring. You’ll make your way up the busy trail with a short climb to the top to arrive at a viewing platform that overlooks the Grand Prismatic Spring and Midway Geyser Basin.

It’s gigantic, and is the largest spring in the U.S. and the third largest in the world. At 370 ft in diameter, it’s larger than a football field. The trail is best done when the weather is clear but make sure to get there early as it can get busy and parking can be hard to find. 

While you can hike to the Grand Prismatic Overlook at anytime of day, it’s best to do it late morning or early afternoon after the sun has had a chance to burn off the steam coming from the spring. 

You also have the option to extend your hike to Fairy Falls (see below).

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Fairy Falls Trail

Trail Length: 5.4 miles/8.6 km or 6.7 miles/10.7 km if you extend your hike to Spray and Imperial Geysers 
Elevation Difference: 200 feet/61 meters 
Trail Type: Out-and-back route
Trailhead: 1)Fairy Falls Trailhead, 1 mile (1.6 km) south of Midway Geiser Basin (which the route below is based on)

or 2) Fairy Falls Trailhead, north of Midway Geiser Basin. This route is longer, passes by Goose Lake but doesn’t include the Grand Prismatic Overlook.

Fairy Falls Trail leads you to a spectacular 200 ft high waterfall - well worth the hike
The hike to Fairy Falls

If you’re feeling good after hiking to the Grand Prismatic Overlook, continue on to Fairy Falls. At 200 ft (61m) high, it’s one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Yellowstone. While it’s longer than some easier hikes, it’s well worth it and you’ll hike through lodgepole pine forests.

You’ll also have the option to extend it by hiking to Spray and Imperial Geysers, just an additional .6 miles (.97km) each way. 

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Storm Point Loop 

Trail Length: 2.5 miles/4 km
Elevation Difference: 100 feet / 30 meters
Trail Type: Loop
Trailhead: Storm Point Trailhead on the East Entrance Road

 a loop hike with panoramic views of Yellowstone Lake
You’ll visit Yellowstone Lake on the Storm Point Loop Hike

The Storm Point Loop is one of the best easy hikes in Yellowstone National Park. It starts off near Indian Pond and the popular trail is well-marked and offers beautiful views of Yellowstone Lake. At the lookout point, you can enjoy panoramic views over the lake and enjoy a picnic.

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The Best Moderate Hikes in Yellowstone National Park 

North Rim Trail 

Trail Length: 8.2 miles / 13.2 km 
Elevation Difference: 1495 feet / 456 m
Trail Type: Out and back (if you have 2 cars can make it a one-way hike and half the distance)
Trailhead: Parking lot for Wapiti Lake on the South Rim Drive, east of Chittenden Bridge located south of Canyon Village

On the North Rim Trail you'll get a great view of Yellowstone Falls from Inspiration Point
Yellowstone Falls seen from Inspiration Point

While it’s possible to drive to most of the scenic points of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, one of the highlights of Yellowstone I highly recommend hiking it. The slower pace will let you soak in the incredible views of the 20 mile (32km) long and 1000 ft (300 m) deep canyon for longer. Plus, when hiking, you’ll get to see the Upper Falls, Crystal FallsOverlook, the Lower Falls, before you reach the Grand View at the edge of the canyon.  But the best is till to come. You’ll continue on to Inspiration Point for a breathtaking view of Yellowstone Falls.

Not surprisingly the North Rim Trail is a popular hike in Yellowstone National Park so it does get busy. Avoid the crowds with an early start and to view Yellowstone Falls in the best light. 

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Ribbon Lake Trail 

Distance: 4.1 miles / 6.6 kilometers

Elevation: 577 feet / 176 meters 

This stunning trail is the perfect moderate hike. You can choose to do the whole route in a day or stay over at one of the campsites at Ribbon Lake. On the way, there are great features to see including ponds, lakes and thermal features. As you pass by rolling meadows you may even get lucky and see some epic wildlife and birds. 

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Lamar River Trail 

Distance: 33 miles / 52.9 kilometers

Elevation: 3605 feet / 1,099 meters 

The Lamar River Trail offers you so many great hiking options. If you’re an avid backpacker, this moderate route is a great choice with plenty of opportunities for backcountry camping. Or you could choose to make this an easy day hike. Make your way to Cache Creek or walk a little further to explore Lamar River. This is renowned bear country so make sure you keep your bear spray handy. There’s also plenty of grazing pronghorn and bison on this trail which makes this one of the best hikes in Yellowstone National Park. 

The hike to Lamar River is one of the best in Yellowstone National Park

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The Best Challenging Hikes in Yellowstone National Park

Avalanche Peak Trail

Distance: 4.5 miles / 7.2 kilometers

Elevation: 2070 feet / 631 meters

The Avalanche Peak Trail is a popular route great for hiking, snowshoeing and wildlife viewing. This route features a lake and panoramic views at the top of the climb. It’s a gruelling hike, even for experienced hikers so make sure to be prepared and have plenty of water with you. You can do this trail from May to September but make sure to check for wildlife closures. 

Grazing Bison in Yellowstone National Park

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Specimen Ridge Trail 

Distance: 16.9 miles / 27.2 kilometers

Elevation: 3,860 feet / 1,177 meters

Specimen Ridge Trail is definitely one of the harder hikes, but it’s also one of the best hikes in Yellowstone National Park. The trail is full of adventures, including a river crossing, some scree scrambles and stunning views of Mount Washburn. It’s also a hub for wildlife including black bears, elk, moose and bison among others. The trail is marked but it’s pretty easy to take a wrong turn so make sure to take a GPS or map with you. You should also stock up on plenty of water and bear spray. 

Some of the best hikes in Yellowstone National Park will reward you with epic views of Mount Washburn

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Petrified Forest Trail 

Distance: 3.6 miles / 5.8 kilometers

Elevation: 1,775 feet / 541 meters 

This short hiking trail in Yellowstone is pretty steep in some sections but you’ll be rewarded with wonderful views of the valley below. Some of the sections can be pretty muddy so you’ll need to have good hiking boots as well as poles. Although the forest offers shelter, there are loads of open portions on the trail so make sure to get an early start, especially in summer. 

Enjoy one of the best hikes in Yellowstone National Park and discover a uniquely wonderful and diverse landscape.

This is one of the easiest hikes in Yellowstone that’s child-friendly and leads to the most photographed thermal feature in all of Yellowstone, the colorful Grand Prismatic Spring. You’ll make your way up the busy trail with a short climb to the top to arrive at a viewing platform that overlooks the Grand Prismatic Spring and Midway Geyser Basin.

It’s gigantic, and is the largest spring in the U.S. and the third largest in the world. At 370 ft in diameter, it’s larger than a football field. The trail is best done when the weather is clear but make sure to get there early as it can get busy and parking can be hard to find. 

While you can hike to the Grand Prismatic Overlook at anytime of day, it’s best to do it late morning or early afternoon after the sun has had a chance to burn off the steam coming from the spring. 

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