There’s so much to see and do in Yellowstone, sometimes we don’t have time for a long hike, but we still want to get off the road and deeper into the park. We’ve rounded up some ideas for short hikes and walks ranging from 3/8 mile to three miles. All of them are kid-friendly and interesting for visitors of all ages.
The Natural Bridge Trail begins at the Bridge Bay Marina parking lot, a few miles south of the Lake Hotel. This partially paved, 1.5-mile trail (three miles round-trip) leads through a forested area to the Natural Bridge, a towering rock formation. Here a 1/2-mile loop will lead you around the large “hole in the rock” formed by erosion. If you are traveling with a stroller, or wish to walk the paved section only, begin your hike at the trailhead that starts from the main road between Lake Village and Grant Village, just south of the road bridge that crosses over the outlet of the marina.
Trout Lake Trail offers an easy, 1.2-mile, round-trip hike to a beautiful mountain lake. The trailhead is on the NE Entrance Road, around 14.5 miles west of Cooke City. When you reach the lake, you’ll have a good chance of spotting wildlife, especially otters and osprey. If it’s during the fishing season and you have a park fishing license, be sure to bring your rod since the appropriately named lake is teeming with trout.
The Artist Paintpots Trail is located 4.5 miles south of Norris on the Norris-Madison road. This one-mile, round-trip walk leads to Artist Paintpots, some of the most colorful hot springs and small geysers found in the area.
Observation Point Trail is a fun option for a short hike in the Old Faithful area. The trail leads to a vantage point that offers a birds-eye view of Old Faithful and many of the other hydrothermal features in the Upper Geyser Basin. While the hike is only 1.6 miles round trip, keep in mind that it is an uphill climb that becomes more strenuous as you near the top.
The Forces of the Northern Range Trail is a short, half-mile, boardwalk loop located halfway between Mammoth and Tower Junction. The trail leads through an area in the process of regrowth since the 1988 fires, and features several family-friendly interpretive stations for visitors to learn more about Yellowstone’s wildlife, plants, wildfires, and geology.
The West Thumb Geyser Basin Trail is located on the scenic shore of Yellowstone Lake, 1/4 mile north of West Thumb Junction. This 3/8 mile, boardwalk trail takes you through the geyser basin full of colorful hot springs and dormant lakeshore geysers.
Please remember that many Yellowstone trails are located in hydrothermal areas. The thin ground in these areas can break easily, and often overlies scalding water. It is important to remind children to always stay on the trail. And even though these hikes are short, always follow bear-safety guidelines, including bringing bear spray.
Learn more about day hiking in Yellowstone>>