Length: 7.4 miles
Time: 4 to 5 hrs
Best Season: Spring, Summer, and Fall
Pets: No Pets are Permitted
Fees: Park Entrance Fee
This trail is very open with plentiful long distance views and rolling hills of wildflowers.
Blacktail Creek Trail is the perfect route for hikers of all abilities. Situated along Yellowstone’s northern tier, the trail opens early in the spring thanks to its lower elevation. This moderate 7.4-mile hike is an excellent half day spent far from the maddening crowds of Yellowstone’s boardwalks.
What Makes it Great
Water, wildflowers and wonderful views. The Blacktail Creek Trail traverses several different habitats – sagebrush meadows, willow riparian zones, and open forests. Wildlife abounds, including elk, red-tail hawks, osprey, Uinta ground squirrels, coyotes and pronghorn antelope. There are big views of the Hellroaring Plateau to draw your eye as well as small wonders at your feet to keep you engaged.
The Blacktail Creek Trails holds a few surprises. There’s a massive bridge over the Yellowstone River, and a hidden waterfall to experience. You can watch cotton ball clouds roll overhead or investigate badger holes. There’s just enough up and down to feel like you’ve had a good workout, but it’s not so many hills that kids will complain (too much).
Who Is Going to Love It
If you love big vistas or are a little nervous about a close encounter with a grizzly, you will love Blacktail. The trail is very open with plentiful long distance views so you could see a bear long ways off. It’s also perfect for teaching children safe hiking protocol such as not getting too far ahead, paying attention to your surroundings and how to read a map and the surrounding landscape.
The trail is mostly downhill to the suspension bridge over the Yellowstone River. Despite this, the hike back is not an unpleasant return. The trail close to the highway is mostly a nice flat dirt path with few rocks. There are, however, some rather impressive badger holes near the edge of the trail so keep an eye out.
Younger children with good stamina (and lots of snacks) will be able to hike this trail, as will most adults. Remember the fable of the tortoise and the hare – a slow, steady pace will make the trip enjoyable.
While you’re hiking and enjoying the scenery, don’t forget to stop and listen. There are very few places where the noise of modern living takes a back seat to nature sounds, but Yellowstone’s backcountry is one of them. Open your ears to the rush of a waterfall, the warning chirp of the marmot and the sigh of the wind. The natural soundscape of Yellowstone is just as important as its wildlife, thermal features or scenic wonders.
Directions, Parking & Regulations
From Cody, the Blacktail Creek Trail is accessible through either the East Entrance or Northeast Entrance. The trailhead is 7 miles east of Mammoth, just east of the Blacktail Ponds. There is a small parking area north of the road or a much larger, horse trailer parking area across the street. This is the Blacktail Deer Trailhead, complete with outhouse. Be mindful of the parking signs as most of the lot is designated for horse trailers.
Due to the open nature of the Blacktail Creek Trail, it is best done in the cool weather of early spring or the cool of early morning in the summer. Remember that the sun is more intense at higher elevations, so a 70-degree day can feel like a scorcher. Take more water than you think you’ll need, sunscreen, insect repellant, and bear spray.