Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Walking & Hiking

Most of Yellowstone's 2.2 million acres is backcountry interspersed with approximately 1,000 miles of backcountry trails that run through a variety of terrain. (Dogs, except service animals with required permits, and bicycles are not allowed on any trails.)

Be prepared before setting out on a day hike. Park rangers can help you plan your outing and will provide current information about backcountry conditions, but you must ultimately assume responsibility for yourself in the wilderness. There are no guarantees concerning weather changes or encounters with wildlife—especially bears! Being informed is the best way to reduce potential risks. Find out which stream crossings are unsafe, which slopes are loose with "rotten rock," and what to do if you encounter a bear.

Backcountry Permits

All overnight hikes require free backcountry permits. Apply at a park ranger station or visitor center up to 48 hours before setting off. You can pre-register for a $20 fee; please call (307) 344-2160 for more information. When you receive your permit, carefully read the backcountry guidelines and regulations and talk with a park ranger.

Hiking Etiquette

Minimize your impact by following a few simple rules. Stay on the well marked trails. Use designated campsites and eliminate the need for fires by using a backpacking stove. Wash yourself and your articles with biodegradable soaps away from the streams and lakes. Use toilets or bury waste six to eight inches beneath the surface. Pack out every single thing you packed in. Take photos as your only mementos and leave only your footprints behind.

Hiking Safety Tips

Every year, major search and rescue missions are undertaken to assist lost or injured hikers in Yellowstone National Park. To avoid becoming a statistic, consider these safety tips offered by park rangers.

Know your own capabilities and limits. On average, plan one hour for every two miles, and add an hour for every 1,000 feet you climb. Study a topographical map (available at park ranger stations and visitor centers) and plot your course according to your pace.

Be prepared and carry ample supplies, whether you are taking a day hike or going on an extended backpacking trip for several days. Carry a trail map, wristwatch, knife, matches, flashlight, water, food, insect repellent, rain gear, a compass and a first-aid kit.

Hike with a partner and leave an itinerary with a responsible person.

Stay on the trail so you won't get lost. If you do become lost, exhausted or injured, keep calm and stay on the trail. Ask passing hikers for assistance. Do not bushwhack or travel in darkness. Should evening fall, you are better off staying where you are and waiting for help to arrive.

Wear sturdy, comfortable hiking boots or shoes and outdoor socks to prevent blisters, the most common ailment on the trail. Hiking boots or shoes are recommended for all trails, especially those requiring steep ascents.

Further Reading

If you'd like to learn more about hiking in Yellowstone, we recommend the following books:

Yellowstone Trails. Marschall, Mark. Yellowstone Association, 2003.

Best Easy Day Hikes—Yellowstone. Schneider, Bill. Falcon Press, 2003.