Filled with geysers and bears and mountain peaks, Yellowstone has so much to explore! If you’re planning an elopement in Yellowstone and want to include a hike or two in your adventure, you’re in the right place! 

This guide is all about the BEST hikes in Yellowstone!

Whether you’re looking for the biggest hikes with the most epic views or a casual stroll through the woods, there’s a hike here for every level of hiker! This guide will walk you through the best hikes in Yellowstone as well as everything you need to know about exploring the park by foot from how to stay safe in bear country to hiking in your wedding dress.

What You Need to Know Before Hiking in Yellowstone

While hiking can be an easy way to enjoy nature, there are still a few things you should know before venturing out into Yellowstone’s wilderness. It’s always best to do your research before you get to the trail so you know what to expect and can plan appropriately.

Wildlife Safety

Yellowstone is home to 67 different mammal species, including bears, cougars, buffalo, and wolves. While most visitors hope to spot these animals while visiting, running into an animal like a bear while out hiking can be very dangerous. Knowing how to stay safe in case of an encounter is important, especially since your odds of running to wildlife are so high in Yellowstone.

Yellowstone has a few rules to protect you and the wildlife:

  • Never approach wildlife
  • Stay on boardwalks and trails at all times
  • Never feed the wildlife
  • Never park in the road or block traffic

You can read more about wildlife safety on the Yellowstone National Park website.

Permit Requirements

Unless you plan on backpacking overnight in the backcountry, you do not need a permit to hike in Yellowstone.

If you plan on getting married inside the park, you will need to apply for a Special Use Permit.

You can learn more about eloping in Yellowstone by checking out my full guide.

How to Avoid Crowds

If you’re visiting Yellowstone during the peak summer season, crowds will be at their highest. The best way to avoid crowds is to hike early in the morning, late in the evening, or choose a longer trail (most visitors don’t hike more than 3-5 miles).

Other ways to avoid crowds is to avoid weekends and to come in the off-season when there are less visitors in the park.

Hiking During Your Yellowstone Elopement

Yellowstone is filled with amazing hikes for all different levels. Hiking is a great way to experience the park, and to escape the crowds in the busy season. If you are eloping in Yellowstone, I highly recommend you add at least a small hike into your day. It’s a great way to relax and to fully experience the beauty of Yellowstone on your wedding day.

If you’re eloping in Yellowstone and want someone to help plan and document your day, please reach out to me! I specialize in helping couples create epic weddings in Yellowstone and would love to work with you!

Here is some helpful information about hiking while getting married in Yellowstone:

Yellowstone Elopement Locations

If you’re planning on getting married within Yellowstone’s borders, you will need to hold your ceremony at one of their designated ceremony locations. They include an are near Old Faithful, Artists Point at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Lamar Valley, and locations on Lake Yellowstone.

Learn more about Yellowstone elopement locations here!

Can you get married in Yellowstone’s backcountry?

Unfortunately you cannot get married in Yellowstone’s backcountry, but they have several fantastic options for ceremonies, some of which even include hiking to get to!

Even if you can’t tie the knot on trail, that doesn’t mean you can’t still include a hike in your day! The rest of your elopement day you are free to explore the park, just like any other guest. So you can add in a hike to explore the park and to get some epic photos.

Can you hike in your wedding attire?

If you want to hike in your wedding attire, no one is going to stop you! While I wouldn’t recommend a strenuous hike in your wedding attire, if you want some adventurous photos, you’re more than welcome to either hike in your wedding clothes or to change into them at the end of your hike.

Check out my full guide to planning a hiking elopement for more advice.

Frequently Asked Questions About Hiking in Yellowstone

Do you have to hike to get good views?

No! Yellowstone has easily accessible views of mountains, geysers, and wildlife for everyone! The trails in the park range from easy boardwalks to pull outs along the road to strenuous mountain hikes. You can find any kind of adventure you’re up for!

What’s the best time of year for hiking in Yellowstone?

July and August provide the best weather in Yellowstone, with dry and warm temperatures, making them the best time of year for hiking in the park. June and September can be good as well, but there’s still a chance of snow closures at those times of year.

How much time do you need to explore Yellowstone?

Yellowstone is big. Like really, really big! I recommend a minimum of 2 full days inside the park to see the highlights of both the upper and lower loop. If you really want to explore the park and see all that it has to offer I would recommend 4-6 days.

Which Yellowstone entrance is best for hiking?

That really depends on where you want to hike! Some of my personal favorite hikes in the park are on the West side, so the West Entrance would be my recommendation, but it depends on where you want to hike and where you’re coming from.

Do you really need bear spray?

Yes. There are over 1,000 bears in the Yellowstone area, with at least 150 of them residing within the park itself. It’s not rare to run into bears in Yellowstone, especially if you’re going to be hiking. Bear spray is cheap insurance and is always good to have on you (and easily accessible!) when hiking in bear country.

Yellowstone Hiking Gear

Hiking Boots

A good pair of hiking boots or trail runners is an essential for having fun and staying safe outdoors. Even if you don’t have a pair of hiking boots, make sure you wear your most comfortable walking shoes with good traction.

Clothing Layers

Because Yellowstone is high in the mountains at 6,000-8,000 ft., the weather can be unpredictable and change quickly. It’s best to bring layers and come prepared for everything from hot and sunny to cold and rainy.

Sun protection

It’s always good to bring protection from the sun. This includes sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen.

Snacks

Hiking takes a lot of energy, so don’t forget to bring along some snacks! Make sure you clean up after yourselves and never feed the wildlife (it can be fatal to the animals and could put you in danger). 

Bear Spray

Even if you don’t plan on doing any big hikes deep into the backcountry, it’s always best to carry bear spray when out in bear country. If you don’t want to buy your own bear spray (and I don’t blame you when it costs an average of $40 per can!), you can rent bear spray for your time in Yellowstone. 

Renting bear spray is a great option if you only need it for your trip to Yellowstone or if you will be flying to get there and can’t bring your own. It costs about $10 per day to rent and can be picked up and dropped off in the park.

Bear Spray Rental Locations

  • Freeheel and Wheel in West Yellowstone, Montana
  • Bear Aware Old Faithful at the Upper Geyser Basin
  • Bear Aware Canyon Village next to the Canyon Visitor Center

See the full list of bear spray pickup and drop-off locations here.

The 10 Essentials

If you’re not familiar already, the 10 Essentials are a set of equipment you should have with you whenever you go hiking. They include items like navigation and a first aid kit to keep you ready for any scenario.

 

The 10 Essentials are:

  • Navigation
  • Headlamp + extra batteries
  • Sun Protection
  • First Aid
  • Knife
  • Shelter
  • Extra food
  • Extra water
  • Extra clothes

 

For more details and information, check out my adventure elopement packing list guide!

11 Best Hikes in Yellowstone National Park

Easy Hikes

Fairy Falls Trail

This easy trail is one of the most popular trails in the park, and for good reason! It’s an incredibly easy trail that is almost completely flat, leading to a 200 ft. waterfall! The parking lot at the trailhead fills up quickly, but there is overflow parking just South of the parking lot. But get there early, because even the overflow parking fills up by midday!

Distance: 4.8 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 170 ft.

Best Time of Day: Morning or evening

Trailhead Location: Fairy Falls Parking Lot, just south of the Grand Prismatic

Why This Trail is Great: Just about anyone can do it! The trail itself is very peaceful and the waterfall at the end is amazing!

Grand Prismatic Overlook Trail

Sharing the beginning of the Fairy Falls Trail, this detour overlooking the Grand Prismatic Spring is a must-see! You gain a few hundred feet of elevation, giving you a perfect view overlooking the largest hot spring in the United States. It’s a very popular spot, so expect to wait at the viewpoint for a spot to open up.

Distance: 1.5 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 200 ft.

Best Time of Day: Midday

Trailhead Location: Fairy Falls Parking Lot

Why This Trail is Great: This short trail gives you an over-head view of the Grand Prismatic, a unique view of this spring

Mystic Falls Trail

Another easy waterfall hike, the Mystic Falls Trail begins in the Biscuit Basin in the southwest of the park. This trail takes you through a beautiful forest and into the mountains. This trail is quite popular and the parking lot tends to be busy and full in the afternoon.

Distance: 2.4 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 147 ft.

Best Time of Day: Anytime

Trailhead Location: Biscuit Basin

Why This Trail is Great: The beautiful waterfall and easy trail make this a great trail for all hikers

Norris Geyser Basin Loop

Located on the west side of Yellowstone, this geyser basin is home to the world’s tallest geyser, Steamboat Geyser. This basin is easily accessed by a series of boardwalks that take you through geysers and hot springs. You can walk the full loop or just a portion, whatever you’re up  for!

Distance: 3 miles round trip

Elevation Gain: 190 ft.

Best Time of Day: Morning

Trailhead Location: Norris Geyser Basin Parking Lot

Why This Trail is Great: Epic geysers and beautiful hot springs, all easily accessed via boardwalk trails

Moderate Hikes

Old Faithful Observation Point Loop

The Upper Geyser Basin is home to the world’s most famous geyser, Old Faithful. This trail will lead you through the entire geyser basin on a boardwalk, making it easy for just about anyone to access. The trail includes a short hike to a viewpoint overlooking Old Faithful. You can omit this part of the trail for an easy hike.

Distance: 5 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 357 ft.

Best Time of Day: Anytime

Trailhead Location: Old Faithful Parking Lodge

Why This Trail is Great: The observation point gives you a unique viewpoint overlooking Old Faithful and the other geysers in the Upper Geyser Basin

Lone Star Geyser Trail

This backcountry geyser erupts up to 45 ft. approximately every 3 hours. It is accessed via a partially paved trail through Yellowstone’s beautiful forests. You can hike or bike, though cyclists must walk by foot on the last few hundred feet.

Distance: 5.3 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 127

Best Time of Day: Anytime

Trailhead Location: Lone Star Trailhead OK1, located just off of the Lower Loop on the southwest of the park

Why This Trail is Great: The geyser at the end

Trout Lake Loop

Located east of the Lamar Valley, this short hike loops around Trout Lake with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. This is also one of the few hiking ceremony locations in the park, making it a great option for eloping couples wanting to add a hike to their day.

Distance: 1.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 209 ft.

Best Time of Day: Anytime

Trailhead Location: Trout Lake Trailhead Pullout on the NE Entrance Road

Why This Trail is Great: The beautiful mountain views surrounding the lake

Red Point Trail

Descending into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, this paved and boardwalk trail gives you an epic view of the Lower Falls. This trail has a long stretch of stairs, but it’s worth it for the view!

Distance: 0.7 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 259 ft.

Best Time of Day: Morning or evening

Trailhead Location: Lookout Point

Why This Trail is Great: The amazing views of the canyon and the Lower Falls make this trail one of the best locations in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Hard Hikes

Dunraven Pass to Mount Washburn

This trail will take you to the peak of Mount Washburn, a 10,219 ft. tall mountain. This mountain hike is a popular trail for adventurous hikers, as it offers some of the best views of the surrounding rocky mountains!

Distance: 6.8 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 1,394 ft.

Best Time of Day: Morning

Trailhead Location: One the east side of the park, just off of the Grand Loop Road

Why This Trail is Great: The epic views at the top and the high you get from summiting a mountain

Avalanche Peak Trail

This strenuous hike climbs to the top of Avalanche Peak, a 10,568 ft. tall mountain on the border of Yellowstone and the North Absaroka Wilderness. Note that this trail typically still has snow until early July. This trail is rocky with a steep ascent.

Distance: 4.5 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 2,100 ft.

Best Time of Day: Morning

Trailhead Location: Eleanor Lake Parking Lot on Highway 14 on the east end of the park

Why This Trail is Great: The epic mountain views at the top


As you can see, Yellowstone is home to some pretty amazing hikes! The best part is, there’s something for every ability whether you’re an avid adventurer or want a casual walk in nature.

If you’re planning an elopement in Yellowstone, I would LOVE to help you not only photograph it but also help you plan it! Contact me and let’s work together!


Let’s Plan Your Yellowstone Elopement

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