15 Incredible day hikes in Yellowstone National Park
If you are heading to Yellowstone National Park, you will have so much to do and see. While overnight camping in the backcountry is an option, most people only visit Yellowstone for a few days. See our complete Yellowstone Itinerary here.
With over 1,000 miles of hikes in Yellowstone, you’ll have plenty to keep your two feet busy during your visit. We highly suggest you consider a couple of day hikes in Yellowstone to get away from the crowds and really experience all that the park has to offer.
We have broken up the Yellowstone hikes by location in the park.
Psst: We have a few guides on Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. Check them out here:
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Yellowstone National Park is true wilderness and safety should be your number one concern when you are there. While it’s highly unlikely, you need to prepare for the worst case scenario, especially if planning on doing extended hikes in the park.
Be sure to check with a ranger at any visitor center to get current trail conditions and bear and other wildlife activity.
For all day hikes in Yellowstone, we suggest packing the following:
- Rain gear
- Bear Spray (know how to use it)
- Hat and sunglasses
- Sunblock and bug spray
- Layers – we can’t stress this enough
- Emergency equipment: first aid kit, matches, etc.
>> For more tips and what to buy, read our Packing for a Day Hike guide. We’ve included all the essentials you might need, no matter what type of weather/hike you are planning for.
Practice “Leave No Trace”
If you’re unfamiliar with “Leave No Trace”, it means to keep the land as you found it. Don’t leave trash. Stay on the marked trails. Don’t feed/pet wildlife.
Sunscreen, layers, and hats
The sun and weather can be intense on hikes and shade isn’t always available. Always carry sunscreen with you. You’ll never catch us without it.
Water, water, water
Don’t underestimate how quickly the body can dehydrate on a hike. We typically hike with our hydration bladders and suggest a minimum of 1 gallon per person, per day, depending on the length/difficulty of your hike(s).
Map of Yellowstone Hikes (by region)
Click the interactive map below!
HOW TO USE THIS MAP: To view the layers and see the names of the places on this map, click the tab in the top left corner. You can select the check marks to show or hide certain layers. If you select the icons on the map, you will get more information about the point of interest.
HOW TO SAVE THIS MAP: If you select the star icon next to the map name, you can save this map to your Google Maps account. To view it, open Google Maps in desktop or on your phone, select the menu button, go to “Your Places,” scroll to the right to Maps, and you will see this map.
- Distance: 0.8 miles one-way (1.6 miles round trip)
- Elevation Gain: 160 feet in less than a mile
- Trailhead Location: Behind the Old Faithful geyser, past the lodge and cabins, almost directly across from the visitor center.
To get to the trailhead, you will walk around the Old Faithful boardwalk until you see the sign for Geyser Hill. After walking along the Firehole River Boardwalk, you will start this switchback trail.
While slightly strenuous, this hike gives you a birds-eye view of the Old Faithful Geyser basin below. We watched Old Faithful go off twice, once from the ground level and once from here.
*If you only have time to watch it once, we’d tell you to skip this trail and watch it from the ground level.
From this hike, you can return back the way you came to the basin or continue to the Solitary Geyser which will add another 1 mile to your hike.
Grand Prismatic Overlook Trail & Fairy Falls
- Distance: Grand Prismatic Overlook: 1.2 miles; Fairy Falls 8.8 miles roundtrip
- Elevation Gain: 215 feet
- Trailhead Location: Park 1 mile south of the Midway Geyser Basin and cross the steel bridge. Walk 1.1 miles to get to the trailhead.
- If that parking lot is full, park at the end of Fountain Flat Drive and walk 3 miles south to the Fairy Falls Trail junction. Continue 1.4 miles to get to the trailhead.
- Bear notice: typically closed until Memorial Day Weekend. Check with a ranger/visitor center before hiking.
As one of the most popular hikes in Yellowstone, go early. After 10AM, you’ll struggle to find a spot during the busier months. This is an easy, flat and wide hike that goes along the edge of the Grand Prismatic.
The Overlook trail is right off of the Fairy Falls trail and we highly suggest stopping. It’s a 160-foot climb to a great view.
Photo Credit: Yellowstonepark.com
Back down from the overlook, continue on to Fairy Falls which plunges over 200 feet. If you continue past the falls another 0.7 miles, you will reach Imperial Geyser, which has frequent small minor eruptions.
This hike is considered by many one of the best hikes in Yellowstone due to its accessibility and ease of the hike.
- Distance: 2.4 miles out-and-back OR 3.9 miles roundtrip loop via Scenic Overlook
- Elevation Gain: 600 feet (for overlook only)
- Trailhead Location: at the back of the Biscuit Basin boardwalk
- Bear notice: typically closed until Memorial Day Weekend. Check with a ranger/visitor center before hiking.
Mystic Falls is a beautiful waterfall located in the Upper Geyser Basin just 2 miles away from Old Faithful.
The hike to experience these 70-foot cascading falls is just as beautiful and offers two trails, one that is short and easy and the other that is longer and more challenging but rewards you with gorgeous views of Biscuit Basin, the Upper Geyser Basin, and the surrounding scenery.
At the fork, the shorter hike which goes directly to the falls is to the left or counter-clockwise. To get to the overlook, follow the sign that reads “overlook”, going clockwise and ends with the falls.
The waterfall itself falls into the Little Firehole River and is unique because of the thermal activity that is visible throughout the falls. You can see clouds of steam rising from various places along the waterfall.
On the way to the falls, we hiked the longer trail, which was full of switchbacks and a pretty decent elevation gain. After spending some time in front of the falls, we rewarded ourselves for a job well done by heading back to the trailhead using the shorter and easier trail. This Yellowstone hike was one of our favorites!
- Distance: 5.8 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 300 feet
- Location: about 9 miles west of the West Thumb junction. Parking is across the main road and is limited.
- Bear notice: Bears can frequent this area. Check with a ranger before hiking.
Of all the hikes in Yellowstone, a ranger told us this one had the most moose sightings, which is why we did it. A relatively easy hike, you will walk along a forest edge, through open fields and meadows to get to the shoreline of Yellowstone’s largest backcountry lake.
While we didn’t see a moose on our hike, we did see massive bear tracks and about 1 million mosquitos who managed to bite us through our clothes.
This Yellowstone hike continues into the backcountry if you go beyond the lake, for which you will need a permit. The dayhike stops at the shoreline and you will return on the same path. We only saw 2 other groups on this trail during our hike so please carry bear spray.
Yellowstone Lake Overlook
- Distance: 1.6 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 200 feet
- Trailhead Location: From the West Thumb Geyser Basin parking area, it will be on the right as you enter the parking area.
This 1.6-mile loop trail takes you to a high mountain meadow for a grand view of the Yellowstone Lake and Absaroka Mountains in the distance.
The loop trail can be steep in some parts, and takes you through thick forest, but the view from the top is worth it. We hiked this on a semi-cloudy day and still really enjoyed the views.
- Distance: 3.5 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 800 feet
- Trailhead Location: 1 mile south of Fishing Bridge. Parking is along the roadside.
This Yellowstone hike starts with a bang climbing 800 feet in under 1.5 miles. Through a dense forest, you will come to a fork to get to the top. The shortest path is to the left.
The overlook provides a beautiful panoramic view of the Yellowstone Lake and surrounding area! If you are short on time, consider hiking the Yellowstone Overlook hike instead (a shorter and easier hike with similar views).
- Distance: 2.5 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 215 feet (only if you climb up to the top)
- Trailhead Location: From the Bay Bridge Marina parking lot, you will walk towards the campground
- Bear notice: typically closed until early summer while bears feed on trout in the nearby creek. Check with a ranger/visitor center before hiking.
The natural bridge is a 51-foot cliff of rhyolite rock cut through by Bridge Creek. The hiking trail weaves through forest for the first 0.8 miles and then connects with a service road to continue towards the Natural Bridge.
If you choose to climb the short but steep hike to the top, you will be rewarded with incredible views of the bridge set against the backdrop of the mountains.
Please do NOT walk across the bridge, it’s closed to protect it.
You can cross along a path directly next to it and continue down the mountain to form a loop which eventually meets up with the road. If you do the loop, add another 0.2 miles to this hike.
- Distance: 2.3 miles
- Elevation Gain: 90 feet (across small hills, not all at once)
- Trailhead Location: Indian Pond pullout a few miles east of the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center
- Bear notice: typically closed through early summer for bear activity. Check with a ranger/visitor center before hiking.
In our humble option, this is the one of the BEST hikes in Yellowstone. This is an easy hike that gives you the best snapshot of Yellowstone: lake, wildlife, forest, sand beaches, meadows, and mountains off in the distance.
The trail starts in a large open meadow overlooking a small pond where birds frequent. We did this hike 2 separate times (once in July and once in September) and saw a lone bison both times. (Please stay at least 25 yards away!)
The trail will continue through the woods out to a scenic, windy Storm Point. The rocky area near the point is home to MANY yellow-bellied marmots who can be seen sunbathing on the rocks in the field or foraging for food in the meadow.
The Tetons are the faint mountains on the left.
Continue past the storm point along the sandy shoreline to another lookout point. The trail will eventually loop back through the forest where you will connect with the path again.
Samantha’s 70-year old parents did this hike without many issues and we highly suggest this hike in Yellowstone National Park!
- Distance: 3-6 miles round trip, loop
- Elevation Gain: 580 feet
- Trailhead Location: Uncle Tom’s Point Parking Area, 2.3 miles south of the Canyon Junction on the South Rim; you can also park at the Artist Point parking lot – however, this route will miss Clear Lake
This relatively-level trail winds through meadows and forests, passing 3 backcountry lakes: Ribbon Lake, Clear Lake and Lily Pad Lake. The entire loop is 6 miles, but you can park at the Artist Point area for a shorter hike to Lily Pad Lake. The Artist Point to Lily Pad and Clear Lake loop is 3 miles.
Note: Clear Lake is a hydrothermal area – stay on the path
- Distance: 6 miles from Dunraven Pass; 5 miles from Chittenden Road parking
- Elevation Gain: 1,400 feet
- Trailhead Location: Dunraven pass, 4.5 miles north of Canyon Junction; Chittenden Road is 10.3 miles north of Canyon Junction
- Bear notice: This trail goes through prime grizzly territory. In the fall, grizzlys seek out the whitebark pine nuts and the trail is typically closed in the fall. Check with a ranger/visitor center before hiking.
Let’s start by saying that this is a strenuous hike. The rangers will tell you this hike is not recommended for anyone with a heart condition or respiratory problems.
Between the elevation gain and the high altitude, please use caution when selecting this hike. This is a true backcountry trail with no access to water. Bring a minimum of 2-3 liters of water per person, winter apparel (layers, gloves/hats) and rain gear.
Starting at 10,243 foot elevation, Mount Washburn offers unparalleled panoramic views in the park of 20-50 miles in every direction on a clear day. Known as one of the best hikes in Yellowstone for wildflowers, in the mid-summer months, flowers carpet the meadows. At the top of this hike, you can enjoy the views inside the shelter at the base of the fire lookout.
Whether you start at Dunraven Pass or Chittenden Road parking lot, this hike is a steady 1,400-foot gain. Since you are already at such a high elevation, the weather on this trail is typically cooler, windier and storms are very common, especially in the afternoon. Bighorn sheep and grizzlys frequent this area.
- Distance: 4.6 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 1,300 feet
- Trailhead Location: 5 miles south of Mammoth on the Grand Loop Road, near Glen Creek Trailhead, parking is very limited
- Bear notice: Grizzly bears can frequent this area. Check with a ranger/visitor center before hiking.
If you paid any attention during your high-school chemistry class, you might recognize the name of this mountain. Yes, Bunsen Peak was named for the German chemist who invented the Bunsen Burner.
What’s the correlation to Yellowstone? This same chemist is also responsible for some early work on volcanic geyser theories, which has Yellowstone written all over it.
The Bunsen Peak trail is just south of the popular Mammoth Hot Springs of Yellowstone and is a pretty challenging 4.4-mile out-and-back hike that climbs about 1,300 feet in elevation to the summit at about 8,500 feet.
In our opinion, this is one of the best hikes in Yellowstone.
Climbing through forests and across meadows, the summit offers panoramic 360-degree views of the park including Blacktail Plateau, Swan Lake Flat, Gallatin Mountain Range and the Yellowstone River Valley.
We were lucky enough to get caught in a rain and sleet storm about 5 minutes from the top of the peak. Yes, sleet in July….did we mention it’s a pretty high elevation? But in no way were we giving up!
We hunkered down with our ponchos under some of the sparsely-populated trees and rode out the storm before finishing the climb. And we are so glad we endured the climb and the rain storm because we were rewarded with beautiful sweeping views of Mammoth Hot Springs and so much more of Yellowstone’s diverse landscape.
Mark this as a must-do Yellowstone hike when you’re visiting (disclaimer: this was a strenuous hike and not recommended for those with heart conditions or respiratory problems). We don’t have either and the struggle to climb was very real!
- Distance: 0.6 miles out-and-back
- Elevation Gain: 60 feet
- Trailhead Location: 0.5 miles east of Lava Creek Picnic Area on the Grand Loop Road
This is a short and easy hike through a small meadow of sagebrush and marshland to get to the base of a 79-foot waterfall.
The waterfall isn’t cascading but flows down a massive rock. This is a great hike in Yellowstone for families with children. You won’t be able to get super close to the falls so no risk of getting wet.
If you only have 1 day and want to do a hike, we would suggest looking at other hikes in Yellowstone.
- Distance: 3.5 miles round trip to the first meadow; 8.6 miles round trip to the second meadow
- Elevation Gain: 1,500 feet
- Trailhead Location: Slough Creek Campground dirt road; park near vault toilets
- Bear notice: Bears can frequent this area. Check with a ranger/visitor center before hiking.
This Yellowstone hike starts out strenuous for the first 1.5 miles then flattens out. This trail follows a historic wagon trail into the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness beyond the park.
It begins with a steep climb before it descends to the first meadow. We highly suggest resting here before continuing on the second meadow OR after catching your breath, returning back.
Lost Lake Loop
- Distance: 2.8 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 300 feet
- Trailhead Location: behind the Roosevelt Lodge
- Bear notice: Black bear can frequent this area. Check with a ranger/visitor center before hiking.
Starting behind the trail, this hike takes you on a quick 300-foot climb up a forest’s hillside to reach the plateau. From here, this hike joins with the Roosevelt horse trail and continues west towards Lost Lake. At the junction, veer right and you will reach the Lost Lake in .02 miles.
Follow the trail through a ravine and around the hillside to the Petrified Tree Parking lot (cross the parking lot to pick up the trail again) where the trail will climb to a sagebrush meadow before descending to the Tower Ranger Station.
In .02 miles, the path will end back at the Roosevelt Lodge. This is a great option for hiking in Yellowstone offering lake views, birds, sagebrush hillsides, wildflowers and possibly beavers and black bears – it has a bit of everything!
- Distance: 6.5 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 1,500 feet
- Trailhead Location: about ¼ mile north of the Madison Junction
This is one of the more strenuous hikes in Yellowstone on our list so please consider your physical condition before attempting. In 3.2 miles, you’ll climb 1,500 feet to a panoramic view of the Gibbon and Madison Rivers.
From the base, you’ll hike through a forest before ascending into a high alpine environment across gradual switchbacks. If you save this hike for a clear day, you can see the Grand Tetons in the distance.
Overall Hikes in Yellowstone
Brown Bear with epic zoom on our camera – DO NOT get close to bears
With hundreds of hikes in Yellowstone to choose from, no matter which one you pick, you’ll have the opportunity to see a different view of the park and usually away from all of the crowds.
While hiking in Yellowstone is fantastic, it’s important to remember this is bear country and your safety is never guaranteed.
Please carry the appropriate clothes, food/water and emergency supplies. While it’s unlikely, things can go wrong and you need to be prepared.
While this list only talks about a dozen of the hikes in Yellowstone, there are literally hundreds more to choose from.
For more information on Wyoming and nearby, click on the image below:
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We are Samantha & Chris and we are Boozing Abroad (literally). Together, we've traveled to over 40 states and 20 countries drinking local beers, wines and spirits along the way.
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Samantha and Chris fell in love with traveling together back in 2015. They met, married, and lived together in Richmond, VA for 7 years before becoming full-time travelers in 2020.
Along the way, they’ve traveled to over 40 U.S. states and 20 countries while drinking local beers, wines, and spirits during their journeys.
Join them as they share travel resources, stories, and guides based on their personal experiences drinking locally when traveling globally.