Yellowstone National Park’s geothermal features, wildlife and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone will keep visitors busy for days. But, the two million acres offers incredible hiking as well. Here is a list of my favorite easy, moderate and difficult hikes in Yellowstone:
Easy Day Hikes:
1. Fairy Falls is an easy 7 mile loop hike near Old Faithful Junction. The trail is flat and meadowy. At the beginning of the trail you can stop to look at the Grand Prismatic and at the turn-around point is the magical Fairy Falls. The falls are tall and narrow. This hike is one of my favorites because of the delicate waterfall.
2. Picnic Trail is a 4 mile loop hike in between the Tower and Roosevelt Junction. There is a steep hill at the beginning of the trail but after this first incline the trail is mostly flat. If heights make you nervous, be prepared for the sheer drop off into Yellowstone River. This trail runs through Lamar Valley one of the most beautiful areas of the park where bison gather amongst the sage bushes.
3. Lone Star Geyser is a 5 mile hike near Old Faithful Junction. What I like about Lone Star is you can get closer to the geyser than Old Faithful. The geyser reaches equal heights and there is no crowd. Check your timing though, the geysers only goes off every four hours. This trail is paved with gravel and very flat.
4. Elephant Back is a popular 3.5 mile hike near Lake Yellowstone Junction.The loop is a little steep. The forest is pleasant and when you reach the turn-around you can sit down on a log and look at the great view of Lake Yellowstone.
Moderate Day Hikes:
5. Mt. Washburn, my favorite hike in Yellowstone, is a 6 mile mountain hike. It is an easy mountain to climb and a great place to spot wildlife. If you hike in spring or the beginning of summer you will see the mountain goats near the peak. I also spotted a fox and a marmot on my hike. The wildflowers are spectacular and the view from the radio tower is worth your efforts.
6. Slough Creek a moderate hike with many different routes. I did not complete the trail but hiked in three miles and turned around. The view is grand and spacious. Off in the distance you get a great view of the Cooke mountains to the north. If you are lucky like me you might spot a beaver!
7. Union Falls is an 16 mile hike that is hard to get to. It is far from Old Faithful Junction, the nearest lodge. You must ford a river twice on this loop and the trail is steep on the way back. Union Falls is an immense waterfall. If you are adventurous you can climb down the steep trail to the base of the waterfall and let it fall over you, or you can stand back and let the mist wash your face.
Difficult Day Hikes:
8. Heart Lake & Mount Sheridan is a 24 mile hike south of Lake Yellowstone Junction, a difficult hike to manage in one day. The hike out to Heart Lake is long and dull in the lodge pole pines. Once you reach Heart Lake you can go for a refreshing swim. The climb up Mount Sheridan is steep but rewarded with a great view of Heart Lake, Lake Yellowstone, and even the Grand Tetons. The last few miles will seem to drag on endlessly in the lodge pole pines.
9. Specimen Ridge is another hike with many different routes. It is near Roosevelt Junction. At the top of Specimen are many ancient petrified redwood trees. Some of the trees are laying horizontally against the rock and other trees are still standing straight up. This trail has quick elevation changes that will leave your calves burning.
10. Avalanche Peak is a short and incredibly steep 5 mile hike. The beginning and end of this loop trail wanders through forest. After the forest you will ascend through either snow or piles of shale, depending on the season. At the summit you can see Lake Yellowstone to the west and the mountain ridges east of Yellowstone Park.