Hike distance: 6.2 miles if you are going to Cache CreekSprings
Destination distance from downtown: 72.2 miles
Difficulty: 3 to Cache Creek
Time to complete: 3-5 hours
Seasonality: May until November
Dog friendly: no
Fees and Permits: none
Lovely wide-open sagebrush meadows and big views greet hikers on the Lamar River Trail. This is the perfect family friendly hike due to its manageable length (6.8 miles to the river crossing) and nearly level aspect. Thanks to the surrounding sagebrush steppe, it’s also ideal for anyone who’s a little apprehensive about running into a bear.
What Makes it Great
Just about everything about this trail makes it easy to love, except for the lack of shade. If you head out early in the day you’ll avoid the intense high elevation solar exposure of mid-day and make your trip a little more enjoyable. The lack of trees though would make this a fun trail for a moonlight hike.
The path itself is wide and flat with very few rocks. It’s easy to spend your time looking at the vistas of the surrounding peaks of the Lamar Valley instead of concentrating on foot placement. The trail parallels the Lamar River for the first few miles but never gets very close to the water. There is a ford over Cache Creek at 3.4 miles from the trailhead. Be aware that this creek is more of a river and runs too high prior to mid-July for safe crossing.
These sagebrush meadows are home to some of the park’s most vibrant wildflowers. Early in the season look for arrowleaf balsamroot and tiny woodland star. Chances are high that you’ll see bison on your trek and possibly elk. Uinta ground squirrels are everywhere until August when they will head below ground for a very long hibernation.
Who’s Going to Love It
This is a great first hiking trail for children. There are lots of open places for running off steam and with the promise of playing in the river at the end (during low water), you should be able to keep the kids moving. The only steep section is the short downhill to the river crossing, otherwise, it’s about as level a trail as you’ll find.
There’s plenty of parking at the Soda Butte Trailhead. Just 0.25 miles to the west is the Lamar Stock Trailhead. From the parking lot, you’ll cross Soda Butte Creek over a wooden bridge and then head south on the trail. Stay left at the trail intersections – the first is the Lamar Stock Trail, and the next is the Specimen Ridge Trail. The trail is well-marked, but there are many bison trails in the area, so pay attention. It’s 3.1 miles to the intersection with the Cache Creek Trail and Republic Pass. If you continue just a little further on the Lamar River Trail you’ll find the ford over Cache Creek, which makes for a lovely spot for lunch.
From Cody take Wyoming 120 north to the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. Continue to the intersection with US 212, the Beartooth Scenic Highway. Turn right toward Cooke City and continue through the Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone. The parking area is on the left, about a half mile past Soda Butte Cone.
Bring your park pass, lunch, water, sunscreen, hat and bear spray. A wildflower guide will help you identify the plants you’ll see, which can be a fun family activity. Food is available at the Roosevelt Lodge near Tower, as well as the gateway communities of Silver Gate and Cooke City. If you want to make this a full-day of fun, bring a fishing pole for angling in Soda Butte Creek. Check at the entrance station for current fishing regulations.