Boiling River Hike (Yellowstone National Park)

The Boiling River hike is one of the more popular hikes in Yellowstone National Park. It is a fun short hike that everyone in the family can do while visiting Yellowstone National Park. It follows the scenic Gardner River and goes to an area that you are allowed to swim in where hot water mixes with the cool water fron the Gardner River. Make sure to bring your swim trunks on this fun short hike in Yellowstone National Park as the reward is swimming in the Gardner River where a hot spring mixes with the cold river water.

Directions to Trailhead: To get to the trailhead to hike to the Boiling River, from the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel drive north to Gardner, Montana (The north exit of the park). In about 2 miles the trailhead parking area is on both your right and left hand sides. The Boiling River Hike actually starts on the right hand side. If you have passed the sign talking about being at the 45th parallel you have gone too far. This is a popular trail and you will likely see other people parked at the trailhead as it is popular. The Boiling River trail is open from 5am to 9pm. Click Here for an interactive map of Yellowstone National Park. There is an entrance fee for Yellowstone National Park, but no permit is required to hike to the Boiling River.

Description of Trail: The Boiling River trail is well maintained and is virtually flat for the whole hike. This is a popular hiking trail for Yellowstone National Park visitors and it is a short hike that is easy for the whole family. It is only a half a mile to the swimming hole, or a one mile roundtrip hike. There is also a vaulted restroom at the trailhead. Even though it is a short trail, remember it is still in the heart of Yellowstone and you can encounter wildlife at anytime while hiking this trail. The swimming hole has benches to sit on for those that do not wish to get into the water. Getting in the river is about finding the right balance of hot and cold water. The river itself is cold and the several streams of water coming from the hot spring are very hot. It is about finding the balance between hot and cold and when you do the water is great. Obviously only people that can swim should get into the water. Additionally, during periods of high snow melt this hiking trail closes because the river can get too swollen with water. Additionally, Soap (including biodegradable), food, and beverages are not allowed in the hot springs and this goes without saying, no nudity.

Further Thoughts: The boiling river hike was a great short hike in Yellowstone National Park. The hiking trail follows the Gardner River and you are rewarded with great views and the sounds of the river right beside you. On this trail we saw a 7 foot gopher snake which was pretty cool and there was plenty of evidence that Bison and Elk like to use the trail as well. An interesting fact about the trail is that it begins at the 45th parallel of latitude which is exactly half way between the equator and the North Pole.

Because of the popularity of the hike, the park service has prohibited pets, bicycles, soap, beverages or food on the trail. I would also suggest changing into your swimming attire before you head out to the trailhead and make sure to bring a towel because it can be cold when you get out of the water. The Gardner River does have a strong current, so if you have kids that are going to be swimming in the river watch them carefully so they don't leave the swimming area and go into the Gardner River.

The Boiling River (which does not boil) is created by a massive discharge of hot water from a local hot spring. The discharge of hot water is a couple feet deep and about 6 feet wide. It mixes with the Gardner River in two locations and creates two good locations to get into the water and enjoy this unique thermal feature. This spot is a local favorite and people have been coming here to swim for a long time.

Rating: Elevation Gain: minimal (Very Easy), Distance: 1 Mile Roundtrip (Very Easy).

Time to Complete Hike:  20 - 30 minutes, plus however long you stay to enjoy the water.


Boiling River (This Post)

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