- Difficulty: Medium
- Time To Complete: 24 hours
- Distance: 7.0
- Seasonality: Summer and Fall
- Fees/Permit: Yes
- Dog Friendly: No
- Destination Highlights: Backcountry hike, Meadow gardens
Pebble Creek is a gorgeous tour of high mountain meadows with magnificent vistas. The uphill section at the beginning of the hike is the entry price to one of Yellowstone’s premier backcountry areas.
The Pebble Creek/Upper Meadows hike offers some of the most magnificent meadow and mountain viewing in all of Yellowstone National Park. The trail parallels Pebble Creek and exits near the Northeast Entrance road. From the trailhead, the trail climbs up a ridge, steep at points, for 1.5 miles before dropping down the backside and into the Pebble Creek drainage. The trail then parallels, crosses, and re-crosses Pebble Creek several times along its course. A night out in one of the upper Pebble backcountry sites makes for a great 7-mile out-and-back hike with views of the Upper Meadows of Pebble Creek and the large peaks surrounding the area.
What Makes It Great
Pink fireweed, yellow goldenrod, purple lupine, and white yarrow are all found in this area in early summer. Between the bright green of the willows along Pebble Creek and the silver sage on the hills above, portions of the Pebble Creek Trail travel through some of the finest dry meadow gardens in Yellowstone. The landscape surrounding the Pebble Creek Trail demonstrates what is called the sagebrush-steppe plant community. This plant community, found along the entire Northern Range of Yellowstone, is dominated by sagebrush, several species of grasses, and a dazzling display of wildflowers in late June through early July.
While the entire Pebble Creek Trail is twelve miles one way and requires a car shuttle, an out-and-back hike to the backcountry camping sites just past the first crossing of Pebble Creek submerges the hiker into the middle of the Northern Range of Yellowstone. This range is sometimes referred to as the Serengeti of North America. The sagebrush-steppe plant community surrounding the Pebble Creek Trail provides foraging habitat for moose, pronghorn, deer, elk, and bison and the wolves that hunt them. Wildlife viewing is best at dawn and dusk.
Who is Going to Love It
Wildlife aficionados, as well as anglers, will be impressed with this hike. The chance to spot an elk, pronghorn, moose, bison, deer, and grizzly lies just around the next turn. Several wolf packs reside in the area as well. The open views that the trail offers, especially in the evening or early morning, add to the chance of seeing wildlife. While not as well-known as its neighbor, Slough Creek, Pebble Creek also provides great fishing. Look for cutthroat trout, Yellowstone’s native trout species.
Directions, Parking & Regulations
From Cody, take WY-120 W for 16.4 miles and turn left onto WY-296. Continue to US-212 W and turn left, then drive 17.7 miles to the Northeast Entrance of YNP. From the Northeast Entrance, drive 1.2 miles west and turn north into the trailhead parking area, just past the Warm Springs Picnic area. You will need a backcountry camping permit for sites 3P4 or 3P5. For information on getting backcountry permits, check out https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/backcountryhiking.htm