Time To Complete: 3.0
Seasonality: Summer, Fall
Land Website: Yellowstone National Park Hiking
Yellowstone National Park Hiking
Fees Permit: Yes
Park Entrance Fee
Dog Friendly: No
Destination Highlights: Classic Destination, Good For Beginners, Panoramic Views
Slough Creek is not your average trail. It’s not even a trail at all — it’s a wagon road that connects the Silver Tip Ranch to Yellowstone National Park. Both the Silver Tip Ranch, located outside the park boundary, and the wagon route are still in use. Look for wagons and pack trains along the trail. The Slough Creek Trail is relatively flat and spans 22 miles from the trailhead to the park boundary but can be utilized as a shorter out-and-back with distances from 4-8 miles in distance. A hike to the junction with the Buffalo Plateau Trail, for example, is only four miles roundtrip.
What Makes It Great
The Slough Creek Trail parallels Slough Creek as it ebbs and flows through a wide, treeless valley. This valley, like many others in the northeast corner of Yellowstone, provides foraging habitat for moose, pronghorn, deer, elk, and bison — and the wolves that stalk them. The landscape of Slough Creek has changed since wolves were reintroduced, as exemplified by the regrowth of riparian vegetation along the creek.
As elk, moose, and other browsers become wary of wolves, their foraging patterns have changed. This, in turn, has given streamside vegetation the chance to thrive without overgrazing. The resurgence of woody shrubs and riparian cover along the creek increases habitat for ground nesting birds, shorebirds, and fish. The Slough Creek Trail and surrounding area demonstrates a complete Northern Rocky Mountain ecosystem that functions much as it would have thousands of years ago.
This is the kind of hike worthy of packing a pair of binoculars. The trail’s wide open views, especially in the evening or early morning, add to the chance of seeing wildlife. As always, carry bear spray on your belt or in your hand — never tucked away in your bag. Slough Creek is prime grizzly habitat.
Who is Going to Love It
Besides hikers and wildlife aficionados, those looking for great fishing will love the Slough Creek Trail. Slough Creek offers blue-ribbon trout fishing including Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Yellowstone cutthroat trout, the dominant native trout species to the park, can be identified by their characteristic red jaw slash.
Finding a few anglers already along the stream? Walk just a little farther up the trail for greater solitude and the chance to fish a few pools all by yourself. Just be sure to wear sunblock.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From the Tower Junction: Drive 5.8 miles east and turn north onto the dirt road toward the Slough Creek Campground. The trailhead is 1.7 miles up the road and just before the campground. Parking is free with an Entrance Pass.
Please respect and maintain the required distances from all Yellowstone wildlife. It is illegal to approach or remain within 100 yards of bears or wolves. All other animals must be within 25 yards.
Fishing in Yellowstone National Park requires lead-free tackle and a valid Yellowstone National Park fishing permit. Please clean all waders, boots, boats, and other fishing equipment before entering the park to reduce the spread of Aquatic Nuisance Species.
Featured image provided by Dino Trnjanin