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Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
3,600.00 ft (1,097.28 m)
Trail type
17.60 mi (28.32 km)
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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.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

National Park Pass


One of Yellowstone National Park's best hikes. Abundant wildflowers.


Mosquitos. Biting flies.

Trailhead Elevation

6,273.00 ft (1,912.01 m)


Bird watching
Big Game Watching
Big vistas
Old-growth forest
Geologically significant

Typically multi-day


Suitable for




Are there remote campsites along this trail?
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