Difficulty: 1
Boardwalk Trail
Time To Complete: 1.0
Distance: 1.3
Seasonality: Summer, Fall
Land Website: Hiking in Yellowstone National Park
Hiking in Yellowstone National Park
Topo Map:
Fees Permit: Yes
Park Entrance Fee
Dog Friendly: No
Destination Highlights: Classic Destination, Good For Beginners, Great For Families, Panoramic Views


This is a short walk along a boardwalk with views of wetland habitat and of Yellowstone Lake. The boardwalk itself has several benefits –not only does the boardwalk provide a different walking experience than the typical earthen trail, but it also offers a close-up view of the wetland and marshy habitat it crosses. A normal trail would circumnavigate around wet areas such as this but the Pelican Creek Nature Trail crosses straight through. The boardwalk forms a small loop as well thus bringing hikers back toward the trailhead via a secondary route.

What Makes It Great

Beyond the wetland area, the Pelican Creek Nature Trail brings hikers to the shore of the great Yellowstone Lake. Covering over 135 square miles, Yellowstone Lake appears as almost an inland sea — and the sandy beach lining the shore next to the Pelican Creek Nature Trail seems to fit with this interpretation.

The shore and floor of Yellowstone Lake is alive with geologic activity including faults, geysers, fumaroles, small craters, and hot springs. Portions of Yellowstone National Park, including the basin that forms Yellowstone Lake, lie within a historic caldera. A caldera is a large depression, much like a volcano crater, left from the collapse of an underground magma chamber. It is estimated that the eruption and subsequent collapse of the magma chamber that formed the caldera containing Yellowstone Lake and much of Yellowstone National Park took place over 640,000 years ago.

Mount Sheridan can also be viewed from the Pelican Creek Nature Trail across the lake to the southwest. Keep your eyes peeled for the trail’s namesake as well, the white pelican.  White pelicans are one of the largest birds in North America and can soar to great heights. On Yellowstone Lake and other bodies of water in the park, they dip huge, pouched beaks into the water to scoop fish.

Who is Going to Love It

Those looking for a short hike through a lush environment will love the Pelican Creek Nature Trail. Even when the grass has turned gold everywhere else in the park in late August and September, the riparian zones, such as the wetland surrounding the Pelican Creek Trail, still display the last green of season. This hike is also very accessible for those needing a flat, level walking surface. Limnologists, both amateur and professional alike, will also love this hike with its immediate access to the shore of Yellowstone lake. Limnology, for the rest of us, is the study of lakes.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From Fishing Bridge: Drive 1.5 miles east and park in the small pullout on the southside of the park road.  Parking is free with an Entrance Pass.

Featured image provided by U.S. Geological Survey