Located in the northern section of Yellowstone National Park between the North Entrance in Gardiner, Montana, and the Northeast Entrance in Cooke City, Montana, the Northern Range is known for abundant wildlife, mature forests, and sweeping mountain vistas. Anglers flock to take advantage of blue-ribbon trout fishing on the Lamar River and Slough and Cache creeks. It's also one of the best places in the world to watch wolves in their natural habitat.
You could join the crowds of tourists lining the roads of this wildlife-watching mecca in the busy summer months, or you could see it the way early explorers first witnessed this beautiful area—by hitting the trail!
From family-friendly options to wildflower hot spots, here’s a round-up of our favorite Northern Range hiking trails.
Best Hikes for Families
Lost Lake Loop
Where: The trailhead begins behind Roosevelt Lodge; park at the Lodge parking lot.
Distance: 4 miles roundtrip
Highlights: This trail climbs through a mature lodgepole forest and meets up with Lost Lake after 0.2 miles. Often covered in lily pads, this lovely mountain lake makes for a great spot to get your feet wet or enjoy a picnic. Turn back the way you came or make it a loop hike by continuing on to the Petrified Tree parking lot. From there, the trail climbs through a meadow and on down to the Tower Ranger Station area, followed by a short 0.2 miles to meet back up with Roosevelt Lodge. See the full trail description.
Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trail
Where: The trailhead is located at the Yellowstone River Picnic Area, 1.25 miles northeast of Tower Junction on the Northeast Entrance Road.
Distance: 3.7 miles roundtrip
Highlights: This hike follows the rim of the Narrows of the Yellowstone River. After a short but challenging climb to the rim, kids will love spotting marmots, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and birds of prey. Great views and dramatic geologic formations are highlights of this hike as well. See the full trail description.
Where: This trailhead is located at a pullout a half a mile east of Lava Creek Picnic Area on the Grand Loop Road.
Distance: 1.0 miles roundtrip
Highlights: Ideal for even the littlest of hikers, this mellow hike follows a boardwalk to Wraith Falls on Lupine Creek. Wraith Falls is also a nice early season hike when much of the park is still covered in snow. See the full trail description.
Best Hikes for Wildflowers
Specimen Ridge Trail
Where: The trailhead starts 2.5 miles south of Tower Junction on the Northeast Entrance Road.
Distance: 2.4 miles to Agate Creek Trail Junction; 10.1 miles to the summit of Amethyst Mountain
Highlights: More advanced hikers will love the rewards of this more strenuous hike: alpine meadows, carpets of wildflowers, and sweeping vistas of the park. Specimen Ridge Trail is not as clearly defined as other trails in the park; it’s a good idea to bring a map and keep an eye on the trail and for cairns and other markers. See the full trail description.
Where: The trailhead can be found at a small pullout south of Pebble Creek Campground on the Northeast Entrance Road.
Distance: 1.2 miles
Highlights: This short but steep hike offers a big payoff—Trout Lake is one of the most picturesque easily accessed lakes in the park. Wildflowers like lupine, Indian paintbrush, and arrowleaf balsamroot decorate the trail during the summer months. Consider bringing a fishing pole, picnic, or nature journal and spend the day here. See the full trail description.
Where: Pebble Creek Trailhead begins 200 yards east of Pebble Creek Bridge on the Northeast Entrance Road.
Distance: 6.6 miles to Bliss Pass Junction; 9.5 miles to the upper meadows
Highlights: This is your chance to leave the more drier areas of the Northern Range and enjoy the shade offered by a mature forest of Englemann spruce, lodgepole pine, and sub-alpine fir. In addition to peaceful meadows and views of the surrounding mountains, hikers will be greeted with a variety of wildflowers along this more challenging trail. See the full trail description.
Best Early Season Hikes
Where: The trailhead begins at Garnet Hill approximately 50 yards north of Tower Junction on the Northeast Entrance road.
Distance: 6.2 miles
Highlights: This trail is for more advanced hikers looking for an early season Northern Range adventure (the trail can get quite hot come August). Highlights include crossing an old suspension bridge over the Yellowstone River, and the trail's end at a peaceful spot at the confluence of Hellroaring Creek and the Yellowstone River. See the full trail description.
Blacktail Deer Creek to Rescue Creek
Where: Start at Blacktail Deer Creek Trailhead, 7 miles east of Mammoth on the Grand Loop Road
Distance: 7 miles
Highlights: This early season hike is best accomplished with a shuttle. Drop one car off at the beginning of Rescue Creek located just south of the North Entrance in Gardiner, Montana, then begin the hike at the Blacktail Deer Creek trailhead. Hikers will enjoy rugged Northern Range scenery and plenty of potential wildlife sightings on this through-hike. See the Blacktail Deer Creek hike in this guide for the full description.
Best Hikes for Anglers
Slough Creek (to first meadow)
Where: The trailhead is located along the road to Slough Creek Campground where the road bears left. Park at the pit toilet.
Distance: 3.4 miles roundtrip
Highlights: Slough Creek is a popular fly-fishing stream, but anglers and hikers alike will enjoy this pleasant day-hike to a scenic meadow. The trail follows an old wagon trail, so be on the lookout for stock users as well as bears and moose. See the full trail description.
Lamar River Trail
Where: The trailhead starts 4 miles west of Pebble Creek Campground.
Distance: 7 miles to Cache Creek Junction (roundtrip)
Highlights: Anglers, hikers, and wildlife all take advantage of this corridor located in Yellowstone’s famed Lamar Valley. The trail begins with a wide open meadow of sage and grasses and moves into a more forested area. The trail parallels the Lamar River and is a popular place to enjoy some off-the-beaten-path fly fishing. See the full trail description.
Handy Hiking Sources
All photos courtesy of Yellowstone National Park.