Yellowstone is one of the most gorgeous national parks in the country. Hardly anyone can go to Yellowstone without being completely shocked and inspired by its beauty. We have compiled here five of our absolute favorite trails in Yellowstone. From easy hikes in Yellowstone to slightly more intensive trails, you can find them all here.

We have also compiled a folder of the very best maps for the trails included here, which you can download for free with the button below.

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1.   Uncle Tom’s Trail

Brief Overview

Trail Distance: 0.4 Miles

Difficulty: Moderately Difficult

Elevation: 500 Feet

The trail begins at Uncle Tom’s Point near the parking lot and ends at the base of the glorious Lower Falls in the Canyon. It’s the oldest among all the Yellowstone Hiking trails. Set up in the 1800s by Tom Richardson, also known dearly as ‘Uncle Tom,’ it has gone through several upgrades and modernizations over the years. Despite this, it still retains the challenge of a steep climb and the reward of a fantastic view at the end.

Although Uncle Tom’s trail is less than half a mile, hikers can spend between 1-2 hours to make it to the viewpoint and back. What it lacks in length, it makes up for in steepness and stairs. If you’re a seasoned hiker, you should be able to cover it in an hour or so.

The hike starts from Uncle Tom’s Point just as you cross the parking lot. After about a two-minute walk, you’ll reach the viewpoint for the Upper Falls. It’s a paved road with signs at every strategic point, so you should have no trouble finding it. From here, you move about sixty yards forward and then take the right turn. There will be a sign that shows you the right direction at this point.

The descent is made up of 328 steps made of metal with safety railings on the side. The steps are constructed with perforated metal linings. This means you can stare straight down below you even as you take the hike down. Going down the steps does not take too much time, and you should have no trouble with this part.

Once you reach the base, you’ll be able to see the Lower Falls in all its glory. No other hike gives you such a close and personal view of the magnificent Lower Falls. The large volume of water hitting the base creates a thick mist is a sight to see. The suspended droplets of water hit the rocks on the sides and flow back like tiny streams into the waiting river. All in all, it’s a sight you cannot get in any of the other Yellowstone trails.

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2.   The Boiling River Trail

Brief Overview

Distance: 1.2 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation: 75 Feet

The Boiling River trail is one of the most visited among all the Yellowstone hikes. Because of the high traffic, it can be a little crowded too, but the view is definitely worth it. It’s also one of the easiest Yellowstone trails you can take. It derives its unusual name from the hot springs that supply warm water to the stream nearby. Yellowstone’s very own hydrothermal properties heat the water, giving you a Jacuzzi-like experience in the stream.

This Yellowstone hike begins near the Montana Border, which comes under the 45th Parallel. AS you head south from this point, you will venture into the state of Wyoming before too long. The trail is a dirt route that runs along the side of the Gardner River.

After hiking for half a mile, the stream transforms into much more transparent water, making it extremely inviting. However, do not enter the water at this point. This is the runoff channel which comes directly from the source and may have temperatures exceeding 100 degrees.

Further below, you’ll find a sheltered line of rocks that ac as a small barrier to separate the hot water. Here’s where you’ll find the confluence of the hot water and the cold stream. You need to test the waters first and wade through to find the right temperature. There may be scalding hot sections as well as cold parts.

The trail rises to barely 50 feet in elevation. This makes it doable for almost anyone. However, if you have kids accompanying you, make sure there’s adult supervision every step of the way. Pets, food items, and beverages are not allowed in the water for obvious reasons. So, it’s not an ideal place for picnics. If you want a picnic spot, other Yellowstone hikes have better locations.

The area is open from 9:00 AM till 5:00 PM, which makes it accessible most parts of the day. The best times of the year to visit are between March and October.

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3.   The Lone Star Geyser Trail

Brief Overview

Trail Distance: 4.8 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation: 46 Feet

The Lone Star Geyser is another favorite among Yellowstone hiking trails because of its easy accessibility and novel sights. Perhaps one of the most welcome features of the Lone Star Geyser trail is the fact that it is wheelchair friendly. This means it’s open to people of all ages and orientations. Not all Yellowstone hikes can boast of being able to accommodate all who visit.

The Lone Star Geyser trail begins and ends back at the trailhead. The main attraction of this Yellowstone hike is the 10 Foot geyser that awaits hikers who take this trail.

To reach the trailhead, you have to continue driving about three and a half miles past the intersection of Old Faithful road. The Lone Geyser parking lot is where people generally park before heading out. However, there’s a second option too. The Kepler Cascades Parking lot is also nearby if you there’s a shortage of space in the main parking area.

The trail faithfully traces the Firehole River as it cuts through the surrounding forests. The forest isn’t very dense because the 1988 fires partially burned out some areas. The advantage here is that you get to see and enjoy the nearby surroundings as you hike along. On the way, you’ll notice some artificial structures around some parts of the river. These are remnants of an obsolete water-system that supplied drinking water to the Old Faithful area a long time back.

The trail follows the outline of the meandering river on one side till about 0.6 miles. After this, you’ll have a bridge crossing where you shift to the other side of the river. At about 1.5 miles into the hike, you’ll notice another trail that joins this route – the Spring Creek Trail.

After about 2.4 miles, you’ll reach the Lone Star Geyser. If you’re riding a bicycle, you’ll have to keep it at the bike stand with the rest of the riders. The Lone Star Geyser is an 11 foot tall geyser that stands almost isolated from the rest of the geysers further below. Small eruptions that go up to 20 feet occur every 45 minutes. The main eruption happens every 2-3 hours, which means you’ll have to be really patient as you sit and wait for it. But it goes up to 50 feet in the air, which makes it a sight worth waiting for.

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4.   West Thumb Geyser Basin

Brief Overview

Trail Distance: 0.9 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation: 60 Feet

Most Yellowstone hikes are known for being close to natural geysers that attract visitors from all over the country. The West Thumb Geyser Basin is a prime example of this type of Yellowstone hiking trail. This short but visually impressive trail is known not just for hiking but also for bird-watching and nature trips. The West Thumb Geyser Basin is one of the most iconic hikes among Yellowstone trails because it is right beside the Yellowstone Lake.

To reach the trailhead, you have two options. If you enter Yellowstone National Park from the south, you have to drive around 19 miles north till you reach Grand Village Visitor Centre and take the turn here. Then, drive another 1.6 miles to the Grand Loop Road, where you make the right turn to reach the Geyser Basin parking lot. If you take the northern entrance, just drive south for around 20 miles till you reach the Visitor Centre.

The trailhead is a loop that goes around the geysers and inside the Yellowstone Lake. This means you can take either route, and you’ll still circle back to the starting point. We recommend taking the left path and going through the trail from a clockwise direction.

From the very start, you get a great view of the lake as well as the geyser basin. At 7,700 feet above sea level, it’s one of the largest lakes at this elevation. A little further, you’ll arrive at the Abyss Pool, which is aptly named because the water goes down more than 50 feet. As you move ahead, you’ll see the Black Pool, which isn’t really black. It’s more of a misty blue that can reflect vibrant colors.

 Once you reach the lake, you’ll see the Fishing Cone. This cone gets its name from the lore that claims that you can catch a fish and cook it in the geyser before you bring it in. Although fishing is not practiced here anymore, it’s still an incredible sight. Next, you’ll see the Lakeshore Geyser, which can shoot water several feet in the air.

After a while, you’ll see the Thumb Paint Pots and the Seismograph Pool. The hydrogen sulfide gas from underneath the ground makes these pools more acidic than the others.  Because of features like these, it’s really important that you stay on the trail throughout the hike. Once you continue ahead, you’ll circle back to the starting point.

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5.   Elephant Back Mountain Trail

Brief Overview

Trail Distance: 3.5 Miles Round trip

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation: 788 Feet

Although Yellowstone National Park is famous for its geysers and lakes, it’s no less impressive when it comes to forests and hills. The Elephant Back Mountain trail is one of the most visited Yellowstone hikes for nature lovers.

Like most other Yellowstone hikes, this trail also offers a parking area for visitors. The parking area is in the Grand Loop Stretch, not far from Lake Village. You’ll find a small notice structure at the trailhead, which gives a map and necessary information about the Yellowstone hiking trails.

The initial phase of the route moves alongside the highway, so it shouldn’t be all that confusing. After a few minutes down the road, you have to take the turn to enter the forest. Tall pine trees adorn the trail from here on out. But with little to no undergrowth, you still have a great view of your surroundings.

The trail will start ascending slightly as you make your way through the route. Then, it will begin to flatten out for a while. The trail begins climbing once again, till you reach the junction where the loop trail starts. People generally take the left route since it is more convenient and easy to follow. As you move up in this direction, the path will begin to pick up some elevation. The climb continues till you reach a small gully, which is the steepest part of the trail so far. Once you cross this section, you’ll be at the plateau. And a few minutes beyond this plateau is the wide-open space of Elephant Back Mountain.

This open space is the viewpoint from which you can see the vast expanse of the National Park as well as the northern shores of Yellowstone Lake. Few other Yellowstone hikes give you the kind of view you get from this location. From this viewpoint, you will be able to see some well-known sites such as Mary Bay, Pelican Creek, and Storm Point. You’ll also see Steamboat Point just beyond the majestic Stevenson Island. You should take your time here and soak in the view because the downhill trek begins after this point.

The return hike is much easier compared to the ascent because the trail flattens out to the more level ground. Also, the tree-line in this section is shorter than at the trailhead. So, there’s less maneuvering around vegetation and trees. On the way down, you’ll see a lot of old volcanic debris strewn about. This is because the Elephant Back Mountain was formed from an ancient volcanic lava flow. This is what gives it its hump-shaped form compared to the jagged and pointy peaks in other Yellowstone hiking trails.

As you circle back down, the trail follows the flatter part of the mountain. There’s only one section where you have to descend down a steep section of switchbacks. Once you cross this, you’ll reach the junction again, where you can make your way back to the highway.

Download the Elephant Back Mountain Map

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If you’d like an overview of Yellowstone’s history and some more maps, you can check out our Yellowstone Trail Maps page!

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