Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
404.00 ft (123.14 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
16.60 mi (26.72 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.

With lush meadows and open views of a mountain-lined valley, the Slough Creek trail showcases some of Yellowstone’s finest backcountry. Fishermen journey to Yellowstone National Park specifically to wet their lines in Slough Creek, in what many have called the best natural cutthroat stream in the world. Hikers also enjoy visiting Slough Creek for a good possibility of seeing wildlife while enjoying the outdoors on foot.

The trail follows a dirt wagon road, used by hikers, horseback riders, and also by horse-drawn wagons heading to Silver Tip Ranch just north of the park boundary. Most of the elevation gain occurs immediately after leaving the Slough Creek Trailhead, but after reaching the first meadow, the rest of the trail levels out—allowing for an easy backcountry trek and views that stretch all the way down the valley. Find views of Anderson Ridge to the northwest and Sugarloaf and Cutoff Mountain to the northeast.

The long stretch of trail from the first meadow to the large second meadow allows for an elevated view of Slough Creek and its many twist and turns as it meanders through the valley. After passing the sign for backcountry site 2S3, the trail heads into a stand of pines. You’ll see the Elk Tongue Patrol Cabin on your left after leaving the treeline. The patrol cabin gets its name from Elk Tongue Creek running down from Bliss Pass and is actively used by Yellowstone’s backcountry rangers. If planning a trip up to Bliss Pass, look for the trail junction sign for an indication of when to head east since the connecting trail is not as visible from the well-traveled wagon road.

The trail ventures farther, across the Wyoming and Montana border (and into the third meadow), all the way to the park boundary with the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. Just outside of the park boundary is Silver Tip Ranch, a private ranch with a history dating back to 1913, that today receives well-paying visitors by horse or plane.

If you have the pleasure of hiking to Slough Creek’s third meadow in spring, you will hear the roar of water tumbling down the 300-million-year-old Madison Limestone making up the Anderson Ridge. Water from the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness runs down to join Slough Creek in its meander down the valley. The valley has looked this way for the last 11,000 years, a fact that you are reminded of when you see the Jurassic-looking sandhill cranes nesting in the sagebrush a step above the valley floor, so their young can fly down to walk the marsh at night.

Seven backcountry sites are available along the trail with three of them open to stock parties. Site 2S4 makes a great overnight spot for campers hiking over Bliss Pass from the Pebble Creek Trailhead. Site 2S6 is the farthest backcountry site on the trail, but those camping there are treated to the sight and sounds of the fantastic seasonal waterfall off of Anderson Ridge. Slough Creek backcountry sites are notoriously hard to obtain. Plan early for an advanced reservation or be prepared for an early wait at the backcountry office for a walk-up spot.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

National Park Pass

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Fishing. Wildlife. Stunning valley and views.

Cons

Backcountry permits are hard to obtain.

Trailhead Elevation

6,266.00 ft (1,909.88 m)

Highest point

6,670.00 ft (2,033.02 m)

Features

Vault toilet
Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Waterfalls
Wildlife
Big Game Watching
Bird watching
Horseback riding
Fishing
Family friendly

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Horseback

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

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