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Jonathan Stull | 02.12.2018

Yellowstone’s natural legacy has been understood since Teddy Roosevelt's expedition to the iconic landscape at the end of the 19th century, and since then, hundreds of thousands have ventured here to enjoy what has become one of the world’s richest wildernesses. One of the park system’s busiest, it should come as no surprise that the geothermal activity that makes the park famous is also at the heart of its busiest attractions. Venture beyond the steam and you’ll find as picturesque and solitary environment as any in the Lower 48, rich in wildlife and offering a variety of landscapes to enjoy.

The Classics

  • Specimen Ridge: One of Yellowstone’s highest-rated trails is also one of its longest—prohibitively, by most hiker’s standards, as the trail extends for 17 miles even without the crossing at the Lamar River, which may be uncrossable during the spring runoff. That said, early views are impeccable, and you can turn around with satisfaction at any time. Bonus: Lamar Valley is one of the park’s wildlife hotspots.
  • Black Canyon of the Yellowstone: Although described as a classic backpack, the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone is short enough and flat enough, relatively speaking, that you can hike its extent in a day. The one-way shuttle hike is about 14 miles and includes a ford of Hellroaring Creek, a suspension bridge, and abundant wild game and birds.
  • The Brink of Lower Falls: The Yellowstone River cascades 300 feet at the Brink of Lower Falls, and there are numerous vistas of the stunning waterfall. Be prepared for crowds.
  • Upper Geyser Basin Trail: For spectacular geysers the park is known for and a hiker-to-hectare ratio of approximately 23,946:1, go to the Upper Geyser Basin. While these numbers aren’t scientific, the beauty and the crowds certainly are.

Under the Radar

  • Lone Star Geyser: In a park known for geothermal activity, Lone Star is relatively unknown next to the reliably spectacular Old Faithful. Some say that Lone Star, if you can time its eruption right, is just as spectacular with a fraction of the crowds. While it should erupt every few hours, catching it at the right time is a matter of luck, and the eruption times are not reported by any official resource. Take a picnic and a good book.
  • Mount Washburn: Yellowstone is known as one of the world’s wildlife hotspots, and while the valleys offer prime viewing habitat, the bighorn sheep prefer the park’s mountainous regions. Mount Washburn is prime viewing habitat for bighorn, and there are expansive views of the park.
  • Avalanche Peak: Although a part of the Rockies, Yellowstone doesn’t offer many opportunities to climb higher than 10,000 feet. Avalanche is one of those opportunities, a challenging day hike under 5 miles with great views and a well-maintained trail.
  • Storm Point: A relaxing 3 miles around Yellowstone Lake that features swimming holes and North America’s largest lake above 7,000 feet. Conscientious hikers should come in the afternoon during monsoon season to watch the storms roll in across the lake.
  • Lost Lake Loop: While unspectacular, sometimes a hiker needs a break from the crowds that may frequent other parts of the park. This humble alpine lake is quaint, but a peaceful and tranquil escape nonetheless.
  • Fairy Falls: Amid the hubbub of the Lower Geyser Basin, the hike to Fairy Falls is a beautiful out-and-back that gains minimal elevation despite its 10-mile length. A great off-day complement for hill climbers.

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