By Michael Lanza

Yellowstone National Park is a place where the earth comes alive, with more than 10,000 hydrothermal features and 500 active geysers—that’s more than half the world’s geysers—as well as 290 waterfalls, not to mention having some of the greatest diversity of wildlife remaining in the contiguous United States. America’s first national park is also famously busy, drawing upwards of four million visitors a year. Thankfully, most of those visitors never wander far from the roads, which means that hiking provides one of the best and quietest ways to explore Yellowstone.

While the summer months are busiest—and traffic can get very heavy—an early start each day can put you ahead of the crowds. Even better, go there either after the park roads open in spring or in autumn, when the weather is often dry and comfortably cool and the hordes of tourists have dissipated (at least somewhat).

The 10 hikes described below stand out as the best I’ve taken in Yellowstone on multiple visits over the past three decades, including many years as Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine and running this blog. See also my “Ultimate Family Tour of Yellowstone” for ideas on the best spots to visit and take very short walks while driving through the park, including the Midway Geyser Basin and America’s largest hot spring, Grand Prismatic.

Every American should see Yellowstone. Explore it on these hikes and you will see the best the park has to offer.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

Hikers at Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park.
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