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5 Best day hikes in Yellowstone National Park

Secondary Categories: YellowstoneTrekkingGuide

With its diverse landscapes, dramatic geothermal features, majestic mountains, and abundant wildlife, Yellowstone offers a plethora of opportunities for hiking and exploration. Here are five of the best day hikes Yellowstone has to offer...

1. Old Faithful to Mallard Lake

Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA

Length: 7.8 miles round trip

Difficulty: Moderate

This memorable hike begins at the iconic Old Faithful geyser so be sure to gape at its regular eruptions before setting off. The trail starts by meandering through dense lodgepole pine forests, offering glimpses of steam rising from thermal features along the way. As you hike deeper into the wilderness, you'll traverse serene meadows adorned with vibrant wildflowers during the summer months.

The trail gradually ascends, rewarding your efforts with stunning vistas of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as elk, deer, and perhaps even a glimpse of a black bear. As you approach Mallard Lake, nestled in a picturesque alpine setting, take a moment to rest and soak in the tranquility before retracing your steps back to Old Faithful.

2. Uncle Tom's Trail and Artist Point

Waterfall in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, USA

Length: 1.2 miles round trip

Difficulty: Moderate

For a short but captivating adventure, make your way to Uncle Tom's Trail, which descends 328 steps into the awe-inspiring Yellowstone Canyon. As you descend, the sound of rushing water grows louder, building anticipation for the breathtaking sight that awaits you. At the bottom of the trail, you'll be treated to an up-close view of the thundering Lower Falls, framed by towering canyon walls.

After climbing back up, continue your exploration to Artist Point, a short walk away. This viewpoint offers a panoramic vista of the grand canyon walls, the meandering Yellowstone River, and the vibrant colors that dance in the sunlight. Take your time to appreciate the sheer magnitude and natural beauty of this iconic Yellowstone landmark.

3. Mount Washburn

Views South from the Mount Washburn trail in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA

Length: 6.2 miles round trip

Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous

For those seeking a more challenging hike and the kind of sweeping panoramas that Yellowstone is famous for, the Mount Washburn trail is an excellent choice. Begin your ascent through wildflower-strewn meadows, where lupines, Indian paintbrush, and columbines paint the landscape with bursts of color. The trail gradually gains elevation, and as you climb higher, the surrounding vistas expand.

Reaching the summit at 10,243 feet, you'll be rewarded with commanding views of the surrounding mountain ranges, vast valleys, and the Yellowstone Caldera—an ancient volcanic crater that serves as the heart of the park. Bighorn sheep and marmots are often spotted along the trail, and you may even be lucky enough to spy a majestic grizzly bear or a playful mountain goat.

4. Fairy Falls and Imperial Geyser

Imperial Geyser in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA

Length: 5.4 miles round trip

Difficulty: Easy

Step into the mesmerizing geyser basins of Yellowstone on this enchanting hike. Beginning at the Fairy Falls trailhead, the trail winds through a peaceful lodgepole pine forest, providing a refreshing shade during warmer months. As you continue, you'll catch glimpses of the distant Fairy Falls, a 200-foot waterfall that cascades over a volcanic ledge, creating a breathtaking display of nature's power.

Continue along the trail to witness the incredible eruption of Imperial Geyser. This natural wonder puts on a mesmerizing show, shooting water high into the air against the backdrop of a vivid blue sky. Take some time to relax in the area, marvel at the geothermal activity, and let the tranquility of the surroundings envelop you before making your way back.

5. Lamar Valley

Lamar Valley River in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA

Length: Variable options (multiple trails)

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Known as the "Serengeti of North America," Lamar Valley offers abundant wildlife and stunning vistas. The valley is home to an array of wildlife, including bison herds, elk, pronghorns, wolves, and grizzly bears. Various trails traverse the valley, catering to hikers of different abilities and time constraints.

Choose from options like the Lamar River Trail, Trout Lake Trail, or Slough Creek Trail, each offering unique experiences. While hiking through Lamar Valley, keep your binoculars handy, as you might spot a pack of wolves hunting, a group of bison grazing, or a majestic bald eagle soaring above. The immense tranquility and natural beauty of this area will leave an indelible mark on your Yellowstone adventure.

What are you waiting for?

Whether you're seeking challenging mountain summits, mesmerizing viewpoints, or tranquil walks through breathtaking landscapes, Yellowstone offers an array of unforgettable day hikes. So grab your hiking boots, pack your camera, and embark on an adventure through Yellowstone's unparalleled beauty.

Keen to hit the trails? Check out our most popular Yellowstone itineraries here and then speak to a Destination Expert about crafting your own.

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