Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trail (Yellowstone National Park)

The Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trail is a popular scenic hiking trail in Yellowstone National Park. This is a great hike that overlooks the Yellowstone River, across from the Tower Junction area. It offers sweeping views of the Lamar Valley and surrounding areas. This is a must due fun short hike for those looking to explore the back country of Yellowstone.

Directions to Trailhead: To hike the Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trail, coming from the mammoth hot springs area head toward the Roosevelt Lodge. At the Roosevelt Lodge make a left onto the Northeast Entrance road going toward the Lamar valley. After you cross over the Yellowstone River, the road winds back to the right and there is a picnic area on the right hand side. The hiking trail starts at the picnic area. 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 the Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trail.

Description of Trail: The Yellowstone River Picnic Area Hiking Trail was in great shape when we went and you will probably see other hikers while out exploring the Yellowstone back country on this hike. It is a 4 mile roundtrip hike out to a lookout point high above the Yellowstone River and directly across from the area by the Tower Falls Store. However, the hiking trail does continue on as the Specimen Ridge Trail which goes a lot further into the Yellowstone back country and eventually connects with the Lamar River Trail. There is about 250 feet of elevation gain on the hike, so overall it is not that strenuous of a hike. At the official picnic area, that has a couple of parking spots, they have the start of the trail marked with an official trailhead marker. 

Further Thoughts: The Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trail was a fun hike in Yellowstone National Park because of the amazing scenery that the hike traverses. There is also a lot of wildlife in this area. When you are looking into the huge canyon that contains the Yellowstone River make sure to watch for Ospreys as they frequently nest in the area. While on the hike we saw two nests with the Ospreys sitting on the eggs in the nest.

Another animal that apparently frequents the area are wolves. While on the hike we saw 3 elk kills. Even though, none of them were very recent, they showed that the location is an area that is frequented by the wolves of Yellowstone National Park. Make sure to bring your camera because you have a great chance to see wildlife while on this hike, as we saw a black bear and big horn sheep near the start of the trail. If you are bringing children with you on this hike, make sure to keep close watch of them because one side of the trail you are overlooking at the Yellowstone River and it has a very long drop to the canyon floor below.

Rating: Elevation Gain: 250 ft. (Easy), Distance: 4 Miles Roundtrip (Easy - Moderate).

Time to Complete Hike: 1.5 - 2.5 hours.



  1. Thanks for your photos and descriptions! I am going to Yellowstone next Thursday for a week and am trying to read and see all I can about it!



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