The best hikes in Yellowstone National Park

a photo of a woman hiking in Yellowstone National Park
(Image credit: Getty/Jordan Siemens)

Looking for the best hikes in Yellowstone? If you’re planning a visit to one of the most popular national parks in the US, you’re going to want to make sure that these are on your itinerary. From easy trails past the park’s most famous landmarks, to challenging multi-day treks over peaks and through valleys, these are the unmissable hikes for every kind of visitor. 

We spoke with Yellowstone Park experts Ed Krajsky and Laurie Fordstrom, who guide trips through the Backroads tour company. Together, Krajsky and Forstrom have worked in the region for over two decades and have hiked thousands of miles in Yellowstone. They shared their favorite trips, as well as some under-the-radar hikes that offer some peace and quiet away from the more well-traveled trails. 

So grab your best hiking boots, some sunscreen and plenty of water (we've found the best water bottles here) — Yellowstone, we’re on our way! 

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Start point: Canyon Village
End point: Canyon Village
Walking time: One to two hours
Trail difficulty: Easy 

This short, circular hike is great for first-time park visitors or beginners. It won’t take all day, but you will get to enjoy beautiful views of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This gulf formed nearly 630,000 years ago and spans 20 impressive miles with rushing waterfalls and plenty of fascinating wildlife. Expect some vertical ascent on the hike, and be sure to check for trail closures, as winter weather conditions can make hiking impossible. 

Garnet Hill Trail

Start point: Tower Junction
End point: Tower Junction
Walking time: Four to five hours
Trail difficulty: Moderate

On this moderate, half-day hike you’ll follow a trail along the rushing Yellowstone River. The trail covers a 7.6-mile loop where exciting wildlife is known to live, so keep your eyes peeled for wild bison and even bears (pack bear spray if you’re worried about an encounter). This is also a favorite trail for horseback riders. 

yellowstone national park

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Elephant Back Mountain Trail

Start point: Lake Village
End point: Happy Isles
Walking time: Two to three hours
Trail difficulty: Moderate

This off-the-beaten-path hike starts with a climb before turning into a three mile loop. Along the way, stop at an overlook for a jaw-dropping view of Yellowstone Lake and the valley to either side. “This trail tends to be less crowded and offers especially impressive views,” say Erajsky and Fodstrom. 

Gallatin Skyline Trail

Start point: Lembert Dome
End point: Swan Lake Flats
Walking time: Multi-day
Trail difficulty: High

This rigorous 41-mile point-to-point hike is the guides’ favorite. Offering a multi-day backpacking adventure with great views and very few people, the hike starts in the Northwest Corner of Yellowstone and ends south of Mammoth Hot Springs. “It’s a can’t-miss for experienced hikers,” say Krajsky and Fordstrom. You’ll experience varied terrain including a petrified wood forest, lush meadows, craggy mountain peaks and serene lakes. 

yellowstone national park

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Thorofare Trail

Start point: Deer Creek Trailhead
End point: Snake River Trailhead
Walking time: Multi-day
Trail difficulty: High

This hike takes you through an isolated region of the park, known as the most remote part of the United States. “In the middle of this hike you are 32 miles from the nearest road,” say Krajsky and Fordstrom. 

The hike takes three to four days to complete and covers 27 miles of trails first forged by Native Americans and early settlers. The first day is the hardest, covering 11 miles of ascent. The next two days take you gradually down in elevation, eventually leveling out to a flat finish for the last several miles. 

Pebble Creek Trail 

Start point: Warm Creek Trailhead
End point: Pebble Creek Campground
Walking time: Five to six hours
Trail difficulty: Easy to moderate

Travel through dense forest and bright meadows along this gentle 12-mile hike. Krajsky and Fordstrom recommend this as one of the lesser-known but most worthwhile hikes in the park. You can make it a light and easy out-and-back, going only as far as you’d like, or follow the trail all the way through to the campground and parking lot on the other end. You’ll also cross Pebble Creek five times, so be sure to wear waterproof shoes. 

yellowstone national park

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Upper Geyser Basin Trail

Start point: Old Faithful Visitor Education Center
End point: Old Faithful Visitor Education Center
Walking time: One hour
Trail difficulty: Easy 

It wouldn’t be a trip to Yellowstone without a tour of the park’s natural geysers. The Upper Geyser Basin trail is an easy-to-traverse, mostly paved collection of paths. You can stroll past Old Faithful, Grand, Daisy, and Castle — the park's most beloved and regular geysers that offer shows all day long. You won’t do much climbing on these paths, but you can cover up to five miles on the Old Faithful to Biscuit Basin trail. For a shorter stroll and a view, hike 1.5 miles to Observation Point. 

North Rim Trail

Start point: Mirror Lake Trailhead
End point: Mirror Lake Trailhead
Walking time: Two to three hours
Trail difficulty: Easy

This 3.8-mile trail has minimal elevation change and offers an outstanding view of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon. The trail is both paved and unpaved and passes by dozens of overlooks that are worth a stop. After crossing Yellowstone River towards the South Rim, you can extend your hike on the South Rim Trail if you’re looking for a further challenge. 

Looking for more hiking inspiration? We’ve also found the best hikes in Yosemite National Park here. If you’re setting off on an adventure, be sure to check out our roundup of the best hiking boots, as well as our guide to how hiking boots should fit. We’ve also got some top tips on how to stay safe when hiking alone here. 

Elizabeth Briskin

Lizzy Briskin is a food and health writer and editor, chef, runner, recipe developer, and photographer. A Boston native, she now lives in New York, where she can be found exploring, tasting and enjoying all that the city has to offer, that is when she’s not chasing the sun in Los Angeles.