Mammoth Hot Springs Hike (Yellowstone National Park)

The Mammoth Hot Springs terrace is one of the many must see things during any visit to Yellowstone National Park. The Mammoth Hot Springs Hike travels through a series of terraced hot springs which are completely different than the other thermal features found in the rest of Yellowstone National Park due to the make up of dissolving subterranean limestone and because this thermal feature is so far north of the Yellowstone volcano caldera. For more pictures make sure to check out our Facebook Page.

Directions to Trailhead: To get to the Mammoth Hot Springs Hike, from the Roosevelt Arch at Yellowstone’s north entrance near the city of Gardiner, Montana, drive approximately 6 miles south on Route 89, passing the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel to reach the parking area for the Liberty Cap on the west side of the road. Continue another 1.7 miles south up a horseshoe bend to reach the Upper Terrace Drive (also on the west side of the road). Enter the loop and turn right to reach the parking area for the Main Terrace boardwalks. If you are traveling to Mammoth Hot Springs from the south, drive roughly 19 miles north from the Norris Junction (Grand Loop Road) to reach Upper Terrace Drive. 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 at the Mammoth Hot Springs.

Description of Trail: The Mammoth Hot Springs hike is a loop hike that ventures through the Mammoth Hot Springs thermal feature in Yellowstone National Park. The hiking trail travels along paved trails as well as sturdy wooden boardwalks. There are informational signs/markers informing you of the geological thermal features you see while on your hike and the hiking trail system is well marked and easy to follow. The total length of the hike is approximately 1.8 miles and has approximately 300 feet of elevation gain. For an interactive map of this area click Here. You can also take a digital tour of the Mammoth Hot Springs hike by clicking Here.

Further Thoughts: Ashley and I enjoyed our hike on the trails at the Mammoth Hot Springs area. When we went to Yellowstone National Park we stayed at the Mammoth Hot Spring Hotel which is literally right next to this area. When we did this hike we had the chance to see Elk as well as deer in this area. If you are looking to do more of a back-country hike in Yellowstone, then this hike is probably not for you. But if you are looking to see more thermal features in the park then this hike is a great one. Additionally, most of the hike is exposed with little shade so if you visit on a warm day make sure to have sunscreen and water.

The imposing Lower and Upper Terraces of the Mammoth Hots Springs are the product of dissolved subterranean limestone, which is continuously deposited by this thermal feature as the hot spring waters cool on contact with the air as they emerge from the ground. The mountain is in effect turning itself inside out, depositing over a ton of travertine (limestone deposits) here every year. The colored runoff of the naturally white terraces is due to the bacteria and algae that flourish in the warm waters.

The Palette Springs (accessed from the bottom parking lots) and the sulfur-yellow Canary Springs (accessed from the top loop) are the most beautiful sites, but the thermal activity of the Mammoth Hot Springs is always in flux and continuously changes, so make sure to check with the visitor center about activity in this thermal area.  Periodically trails get closed and are moved due to the ever changing nature of the thermal feature. At the bottom of the Mammoth terraces, by the parking area, is the dormant 36 foot high hot spring cone called Liberty Cap, which is a neat sight to see (Shown in picture next to Further Thoughts).

Additionally, there is the Upper Terrace Drive which is a 1.5-mile one- way loop that can be explored by car (no buses, RVs, or trailers) or on foot. The paved circuit passes interesting features like Orange Spring Mound, White Elephant Back Terrace, and Angel Terrace. In our opinion it is not as impressive as walking through the Mammoth Hot Springs terrace, but is still a fun drive/walk.

Rating: Elevation Gain: 300 ft. (Easy), Distance: 1.8 Miles Roundtrip (Easy).

Time to Complete Hike: 1.5 to 2 hours.


Mammoth Hot Springs (This Post)