Most Popular Hikes in Yellowstone That Aren’t Boardwalks

View from Point Sublime
The Yellowstone River flowing downstream into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River below Point Sublime. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park has no shortage of beautiful and remarkable trails to explore. While the most popular trails will likely remain the boardwalks accessing the thermal features, venturing off the boardwalks can yield some unexpectedly mesmerizing results. Below is a short list of my personal favorite hikes in Yellowstone National Park that aren’t based around the boardwalks.

Point Sublime

Point Sublime is an often overlooked trail due to its proximity to Artist’s Point, likely the most visited feature not based around a thermal feature. The moderate 1 mile hike weaves along the south rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River culminating in a…well, sublime point looking downstream. With the majority of visitors fixated on the quick jaunt to the overlook, the trail goes largely unexplored, as does a fork about halfway in if you’re looking for extra miles.

Mystic Falls

Tucked away behind the relatively popular Biscuit Basin is a gorgeous waterfall called Mystic Falls that’s surrounded by thermal vents. The result is an eerily medieval-looking scene that’s sure to amaze and wow anyone who reaches it. The hike itself is an easy 1.2 mile one-way hike traveling up the Little Firehole River, with an option to take a scenic route back to Biscuit Basin.

Grand Prismatic Overlook

The Grand Prismatic Overlook is one of Yellowstone National Park’s newer trails. It was initially created due to increasing tourists bushwhacking up a hillside to gain a higher vantage point of the remarkable Grand Prismatic Spring. Easily one of the park’s most beautiful and recognizable features, both the boardwalk to the spring as well as the overlook itself draw large crowds to catch a glimpse of the massive feature. The trail itself is an easy 0.85 mile one-way hike, gaining elevation only in the last stretch. Optionally, hikers can continue along the trail to Fairy Falls and Imperial Geyser to add a little mileage to the journey and escape the crowds.

Lone Star Geyser Steam Phase
Lone Star Geyser erupting in its steam phase, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Lone Star Geyser

Lone Star Geyser is an easy 2.5 mile one-way hike that travels up the Firehole River most of the way to the unusual geyser. The cone geyser never ceases to amaze those who get off the beaten path to find it. It’s one of the few hikes in the park that’s also bike-friendly and is a gorgeous jaunt through an old forest. Speaking of old, the geyser itself it remarkably old, indicated by the size of the cone which only grows 1/2-1 inch each century!

Heart Lake

Though relatively popular, the Heart Lake trail is a great way to get in a longer day hike, or overnight hike, while also dodging the crowds. At 7.5 miles one-way, the trail winds through both new and old forests before passing through the Heart Lake Geyser Basin. Beyond the wild thermal features lies the massive Heart Lake, stretching out into Yellowstone’s primal wilderness. With absolutely no sign of civilization anywhere to be seen, this hike is able to give you a sense of wild that few hikes in the lower 48 can.

Small Geyser in the Heart Lake Geyser Basin
A small geyser erupting above Columbia Pool in the Rustic Group of the Heart Lake Geyser Basin. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Conclusion

With over 1,000 miles of trail in Yellowstone National Park, there’s no shortage of other trails to be explored and discovered. These simply happen to be some of my favorites, but a second part to this post could very easily be made, so don’t be shy about exploring Yellowstone’s backcountry! There’s a lifetime’s worth of trails and treasures to be explored!

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