Yellowstone National Park (nps.gov/yell), located in Wyoming and Montana, covers 2.2 million acres. While most of the park is backcountry wilderness, there are numerous designated walking trails for tourists to use without setting off into the untamed parts of the park. Trails vary in length, so bring water, sunscreen and warm clothes since the weather can change in Yellowstone unexpectedly.
Old Faithful Area
Old Faithful, a geyser that erupts every hour or so, is one of Yellowstone's key attractions. The Fairy Falls is an easy five mile walk nearby that takes you through a young forest to a 200 foot waterfalls. The 4.8 mile Lone Star trail is another easy walk that follows the Firehole River. The paved trail used to be an old service road and ends at the Lone Star geyser which erupts up to 45 feet every three hours or so.
The Mammoth district of Yellowstone, located in the northwestern border of Wyoming and Montana, is home to the famous Mammoth Hot Springs. The trails are more strenuous here than the Old Faithful area, including the five mile Beaver Ponds Loop. It follows the top of Clematis Gulch. Along the way you can see aspen stands and beaver ponds. Besides moose and elk, be alert for bears as they often forage in this area. Bunsen Creek is another trail in the area. Running for 4.2 miles, a 1,300 foot gain in elevation rewards you with sweeping views of the Yellowstone River Valley.
The Canyon area of Yellowstone is also home to various hiking trails. The easy Cascade Lake trail travels five miles and is a good choice for people with limited time in the park. Here you can see open meadows with wildflowers in the spring. The National Park Service warns that it is often plagued with biting insects in July. Another fairly easy trail in the area is the six mile Grebe Lake trail. This former fire road takes you through forest and meadows before ending up at a picturesque lake.
The Tower area of Yellowstone is loaded with history- former home to trappers and Native Americans. The four mile Lost Lake trail is a moderate hike where you can see wildflowers, beaver dams and wetlands. You can pick up the trail behind the Roosevelt Lodge. Another moderate walk is the 3.7 mile Yellowstone River Picnic Area hike. Here you can see bighorn sheep as well as peregrine falcons and osprey before ending at the picnic area. Start out early and have lunch here.
- Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images