The Best Day Hikes

Just a few hundred yards off the road, things get a lot less crowded, and you’ll have the views and the wildlife (almost) to yourself. Getting out of the car and into the wilds is always worthwhile, but these shorter trips are the best of the best for those not doing extended, multi-day hikes.

  • The Mount Washburn Trail: Starting at Dunraven Pass, south of Tower Junction, this walk to the fire lookout atop Mount Washburn offers unsurpassed views of both parks, plus the opportunity to see mountain wildlife, such as bighorn sheep.
  • The Lone Star Geyser Trail: This gentle, 5-mile hike along the Firehole River presents several places to stop and take in the scenery, go fishing, and—at the endpoint—view an active, medium-size geyser. It is also one of a few bicycle-friendly trails in Yellowstone, and in the winter, it’s a popular cross-country skiing trail.
  • Upper Pebble Creek Trail: Explore the less-traveled, peak-heavy northeastern part of the park on this wildflower-filled ramble to cliff views and creekside hiking.

The Best Backcountry Trails

To see the true heart of the parks, load up a backpack and spend a night or more in the wilderness. These remote areas make for unforgettable backpacking destinations, whether you’re up for an overnight or a real multiday epic.
  • Thorofare Trail: This hike will take you deeper into road-free wilderness than you can get anywhere else in the lower 48 states. You’ll spend a few nights on the trail, climbing up to the park’s southern border and beyond to the Yellowstone River’s headwaters, a high valley bursting with wildlife. Early in the summer, if the snow has melted, the cutthroat spawning run attracts grizzlies and coyotes. It’s not for the faint of heart.
  • Bechler Area: The park’s remote “Cascade Corner” features plentiful waterfalls, soakable hot springs, and riverside hiking. Several different out-and-back or loop options are possible, and you can even plan a long-haul hike from Bechler all the way to Old Faithful.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.