Specimen Ridge Trail

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone, Wyoming

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Specimen Ridge Trail


  • The first climb onto Specimen Ridge.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • The Yellowstone River can be seen early on in the hike.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • Mount Washburn with lupin in the forefront.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • Sharing the trail with antelope.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • The hike climbs gradually to the summit of Amethyst Mountain.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • Wide open views are an exciting part of the hike.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • The Carin's often have stacks of antlers and posts in them to help navigate the way.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • Trees marked with blazes also support route finding.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • Indian paintbrush and lupine are abundant on the trail.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • Looking for signs of wildlife on the forest edges.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • Navigating the ridge.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • Looking into the Lamar Valley.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • Taking a break on the ridge.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • Looking northeast down specimen ridge.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • One of the larger elk shed collections on the trail.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • Looking into the Lamar Valley at the confluence of the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek. The Beartooh Mountains are in the background.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • The Thunderer and Mount Norris are very impressive mountains.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • The Beartooth Mountains are the most rugged mountains in the park.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • Relaxing a bit after getting rushed off the ridge by a thunderstorm.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • Wild daisys are abundant on the hike off of Amethyst Mountain.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • Check with a ranger about the condition of the ford before starting the hike.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • Crossing the Lamar Valley.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • Buffalo wallows can make the trail a little messy.- Specimen Ridge Trail
  • The bridge across Soda Butte Creek takes you to the Soda Butte/Lamar River Trailhead.- Specimen Ridge Trail
Overview + Weather
One of Yellowstone National Park's best hikes. Abundant wildflowers.
Mosquitos. Biting flies.
Yellowstone, WY
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
3,633.00 ft (1,107.34 m)
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Suitable for:
Hiking, Horseback
Total Distance: 
17.60 mi (28.32 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
6,273.00 ft (1,912.01 m)
Typically multi-day: 
Current Local Weather:
Hike Description

Hike Description


The hike on Specimen Ridge is often rated one of the best hikes in Yellowstone National Park. Its a long day hike over some of Yellowstone's most iconic terrain. The trail gains the long ridge early in the hike and ascends over 3,000 feet to Amethyst Mountain before dropping back down into the Lamar Valley and ending at the Soda Butte/Lamar Valley Trailhead. The views are great in every direction, and there is a good chance of seeing elk, antelope, bear, and deer during the hike.

There are two very important considerations on this hike.

  1. The route requires route finding throughout the hike. The route is marked well by carins and blazes that are useful and important for route finding. The trail is often overgrown and undefined. Many large game trails also exist in many different directions throughout the hike. If you are not comfortable with route finding, don't take this hike.
  2. At mile 16 there is a ford across the Lamar River. If you reach the ford and are unable to cross, you will have to return on the trail the way you came, turning your hike into a 32-mile day. Typically the ford is manageable for most hikers by early August. Check with a park ranger about the ford or hike the trail from the Soda Butte Trailhead for 1.5 miles to check the ford.

The route starts at the Specimen Ridge Trailhead. It crosses the Lamar Valley for 1.1 miles and begins to climb up the ridge. In 1.2 miles the trail splits toward Agate Creek or continues east on Specimen Ridge. The hike stays on the gently sloping south side of Specimen Ridge for 7.6 miles before reaching the Summit of Amethyst Peak. From Amethyst Peak the trail begins its descent for 5.6 miles to the Lamar River. After a slow descent along the ridge the trail begins to head northeast toward the Lamar Valley. Keep an eye out for blazes and trend northeast if you are having a hard time finding the trail. The descent is steep and rocky with little sign of a trail. The trail becomes more evident as it begins to meet the unnamed creek on the east side of the trail. Follow the trail to the Lamar River ford. The ford is well marked by large orange blazes. Keep an eye out for buffalo in the river valley and be sure to give them plenty of space. The trail merges with the Cache Creek Trail for the final 1.4 miles of the hike and finishes at the Soda Butte/Lamar River Trailhead.

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(9 within a 30 mile radius)

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(43 within a 30 mile radius)

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