Yellowstone is the largest national park in the lower 48 states, covering 2.2 million acres. Because of its size, visitors spend a lot of time in their cars. To minimize "car time," we broke the park up into sections and planned a hike or two in each section. Hiking is one of the great pleasures of a visit to Yellowstone National Park. With geothermal fields, towering mountains, waterfalls, meadows, lakes, forests, and frequent wildlife sightings. Yellowstone National Park really does have everything you could want from an outdoor vacation. No matter your skill level, hiking allows you to experience these wonders. Listed here are some my favorites hikes in Yellowstone National Park that are appropriate for anyone from people who are mobility impaired to those looking for a moderate challenge.
Things to Know Before Hiking
While a few National Parks have gone to a Ticketed or Reservation Only Entry, Yellowstone National Park has not.
The parking lots fill up quickly, get to the trailheads early to assure you get a parking place and to enjoy the trails when it is quieter.
Carry bear spray on all your hikes. There are definitely bears in the area. We saw 3 baby bear cubs, I am sure their Mother was close by.
Dress in layers, mornings and evenings are cool. Afternoons tend to be much warmer.
Throughout the Park, there are water stations where you can refill your water bottles. Because of the vastness of the Park, these stations are widespread and located in areas that can be very congested. Make sure you pack a lot of water when you leave your accommodations in the morning.
Wear appropriate footwear, even the elevated boardwalks have uneven sections and potentially slippery spots. Sturdy, closed toe shoes are a must.
Carry a comfortable day hiking pack.
Upper Geyser Basin and Old Faithful Observation Point Loop
This 5 mile loop trail takes you up the hill, overlooking the Upper Geyser Basin, Old faithful and the Old Faithful Visitors Center and Lodge. It then brings you down to the paved and boardwalk trail that wanders through the flat Upper Geyser Basin. This section of the trail is accessible to people with wheelchairs and strollers. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 2 hours to complete the entire trail.
At the north end of the Geyser Basin, the elevated walkways connects with the Morning Glory-Biscuit Basin Trail. We extended our hike at walked the 2 miles out and back to the Biscuit Basin.
This trail in its entirety allows you to see Old Faithful and a significant number of geysers which were absolutely beautiful! You will see eruptions of small geysers. There are many places to sit and relax. We brought sandwiches along. We stopped on a bench and ate our sandwiches and absorbed the majesty of the geothermal eruptions. I would highly recommend spending a whole day hiking around this area.
Biscuit Basin Interpretive Trail
To the north of Upper Geyser Basin is Biscuit Basin, a grouping of geothermal pools and geysers, that runs along the Firepot River. There is a 1 mile loop trail which allows you to explore this basin. As you walk along the river, keep your eyes out for River Otter. We saw several and they are so fun to watch. We walked the 2 mile out and back trail from the Upper Geyser Basin to reach Biscuit Basin. This is an easy trail, it takes an average of 25 min to complete.
Artists Paint Pots Trail
This is a 1.0 mile loop trail through a gorgeous geothermal pool field on an elevated board walk that is accessible for people with strollers and wheelchairs. At the far end of the boardwalk you can connect with the trail that leads to the Fairy Falls Trail. Fairy Falls Trail is an out and back trail that takes you to a very pretty waterfall. Considered an easy tail, it takes an average of 25 minutes to complete. Parking can be difficult but worth the short walk to the see colorful Paint Pot Geysers. We stopped there early in the morning before heading south to the Yellowstone Lake area. The fog was thick as the warm steam rose in the cool morning.
Brink of Lower Falls via North Rim Trail
This trail highlights the Yellowstone River Canyon and Falls from multiple angles. This 2.5 mile out and back trail is an easy trail and takes about an hour to complete. This is a paved trail. The upper part of the trail is accessible to people with wheelchairs and strollers. This is a very popular area for hiking and walking, so you'll likely encounter other people while exploring. The views are absolutely incredible.
You can drive to each overlook but the trail itself gives a lot more depth and different angles of the canyons plus it gives you a break from driving. It is easy down, tougher on the way back up with all the switchbacks. It’s a shortish hike and the views are magnificent!
West Thumb Geyser Basin Trail
This 1.0-mile loop trail on the south side of Yellowstone National Park, near Yellowstone Lake. This is an easy trail where you can get close to the geothermal pools. It is mostly paved or elevated board walks. It is accessible to people with wheelchairs and strollers. It takes about 20 minutes to complete. This is a quick walk to see all the different geysers. The Black Pool is the especially interesting. This trail is special because you see multiple types of geysers and it illustrates how they all look so different!
Duck Lake Trail
This is a 1 1/2 mile out and back trail near Yellowstone Lake on the south side of Yellowstone National Park. It is considered a moderately challenging trail. It takes an average of 30 minutes to complete, if you do not stop for a swim at the sandy beach. We went around the entire lake adding another mile and a bit of difficulty to our hike. We had to step/climb over some fallen trees.
Yellowstone Lake Overlook
This hike 4 mile loop trail with sweeping views of Yellowstone Lake It is an easy trail with a 200 ft rise in elevation. It takes about 1 1/2 hours to complete. This trail has nice views, especially on the way down. It is a beautiful vista point for Yellowstone Lake and West Thumb. There are lots fallen trees along the sides of the trail.
I hope you find this article helpful. If you had a great hike, that is appropriate for all skill levels, in Yellowstone National Park and I did not mention it, please leave it in the comments so I can try it on my next visit.
Looking for more information about how to get started with hiking and recommendations for hiking in the United States, check out these blog posts.