Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
143.00 ft (43.59 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
8.40 mi (13.52 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

If you’re visiting Yellowstone National Park in May or June, the Garnet Hill Loop is an excellent moderate day hike just north of the Tower-Roosevelt Junction. The hike offers ample opportunities to view spring wildflowers and wildlife. Spring wildflowers like pasqueflower, arrowleaf balsamroot, and bitterroot color the trail. Bison, pronghorn antelope, elk, and a large community of ground squirrels are commonly seen off this lollipop loop hike, particularly in the open sagebrush landscape near the beginning and end of the trail. Yellow-bellied marmots are big fans of the rockfall on the western slope of Garnet Hill.

From the trailhead, begin your trek across an open sagebrush-filled landscape. You’ll come to a trail junction, not easily visible since it isn’t signed. Veer left or right, but the trail description here goes right. The trail skirts the eastern edge of Pleasant Valley before dropping down for a view of the Yellowstone River, or as the Crow Nation calls it, Aashbilíihkupe, meaning the "Whirlpool River." While you never get to walk the river’s shoreline, you are treated to an elevated view of the river and the rugged Precambrian rock walls it has cut through over time. As you swing up and around to the western side of Garnet Hill, views of Buffalo Plateau and Hellroaring Mountain are possible to the north.

The trail comes to another junction. This time, a right will take you toward a suspension bridge over the Yellowstone River (great side trip), and a left will take you back to the trailhead. Taking a left, the trail follows Elk Creek for several miles through a rocky yet forested landscape. When the landscape opens back up to sagebrush meadows, you can get a view of Yancey’s—a picnicking destination for visitors coming on horseback or stagecoach from the Roosevelt Corral. Avoid the horse routes back to the Corral and follow the foot traffic trail back to your trailhead. If you want to avoid running into the large horse groups from the corral, it is best to time your hike in May before the horse trips start for the summer season.

Yancey’s gets its name from “Uncle” John Yancey, described by Harper’s Magazine writer Owen Wister as a “goat-bearded, shrewd-eyed, lank Uncle Sam type.” Yancey fought for the Confederacy and eventually came to the park area to prospect for gold. He constructed, then ran, the Pleasant Valley Hotel in Yellowstone from 1884 until his death in 1903 from pneumonia, which he obtained after visiting Gardiner for the Roosevelt Arch dedication by Theodore Roosevelt.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

National Park Pass

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Wildlife. Snow-free in shoulder season.

Cons

Little shade.

Trailhead Elevation

6,207.00 ft (1,891.89 m)

Highest point

6,350.00 ft (1,935.48 m)

Features

Near lake or river
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Big Game Watching
Wildlife
Horseback riding
Fishing
Historically significant

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Horseback

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

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