10 Best Hikes in Wyoming

10 Best Hikes in Wyoming

Posted by Paul Miller on Sep 18th 2018

With the oldest and probably most famous National Park in America, Wyoming is a hiking destination for outdoor aficionados from all over the world. However, Yellowstone isn’t the only great hiking spot in the state. Grand Teton National Park also boasts miles upon miles of fabulous trails begging to be explored. While it’s difficult to choose just 10 great trails, all of them on the following list are amazing.

1) Fairy Falls Trail – Yellowstone National Park

Our first trail is in the heart of Yellowstone National Park and begins just a few miles away from the most famous geyser, Old Faithful. So, after watching the geyser erupt, head to the trail for an afternoon of easy hiking. The trail is only 5 miles, round-trip, and brings you through the Midway Geyser Basin, filled with small geysers and hot springs, past the Grand Prismatic Spring, before ending at Fairy Falls, a wispy, 200-foot high waterfall.

The hike is almost completely level and suitable for all ages and hiking levels. The trail also brings you through an old-growth forest that was burned in a 1988 fire. It is very interesting to see the new forest grow back and reclaim the charred land. For a longer hike, continue past Fairy Falls another mile or so to Spray Geyser and Imperial Geyser, both of which are quite active and worth seeing. In addition, there is a side trail that takes you up the ridge overlooking the Grand Prismatic Spring, giving you a fantastic angle to view the multi-colored pool.

2) Mount Washburn Trail – Yellowstone National Park

For something a little more difficult, head to the Canyon Area of the park and take the 5 or 6-mile, depending on which trailhead you start from, hike up to the fire lookout tower on top of 10,000-foot high Mount Washburn. The view from the top encompasses the entire park, including the Old Faithful Basin and Yellowstone Canyon, and even all the way to the Teton Mountains.

During the summer, this hike is famous for its wildflowers and wildlife viewing opportunities. Marmots and bighorn sheep are almost always spotted on the way up. Be aware that during the late summer and into autumn, grizzly bears like to forage along the hillside and caution should be taken. Also, to avoid the thunderstorms that tend to develop in the late afternoon, it’s best do this hike in the morning.

3) Sleeping Indian Trail – Gros Ventre Wilderness

Away from Yellowstone and outside of Grand Teton National Park are the Gros Ventre Mountains. From the peaks of these mountains you can get the best views of the Tetons and the Jackson Hole area. One of the highest mountains in the range is nicknamed Sleeping Indian because it looks like a Native American chief wearing a headdress lying on his back, but its real name is Sheep Mountain, due to the large herds of bighorn sheep that graze on it.

While offering some of the best views of the Tetons, the hike is not easy. In total, from base to peak, it is around 14 miles, round-trip, and gains more than 4,000 feet of elevation. Despite the great views, this trail is relatively unpopular and you may only pass a few other hikers in the entire 8-9 hours it normally takes to complete the hike. Also, bring lots of water with you as there are few natural sources along the trail.

4) Taggart Lake Trail – Grand Teton National Park

Located within Grand Teton National Park, the Taggart Lake Trail offers some of the best close-up views of the craggy peaks and is a popular hike in the park. The trail is only 2.5 miles each way with a mild elevation gain, so the whole family can do this hike in a couple hours. Once at Taggart Lake, the imposing Grand Teton and Middle Teton mountains tower above you.

5) Uncle Tom’s Trail – Yellowstone National Park

Back in Yellowstone National Park, the Uncle Tom’s Trail is very short but very difficult. Only half a mile in each direction, the trail takes you down more than 300 steps, nearly to the bottom of Lower Falls, the most famous waterfall in the park.

At the viewing area, the mist from the falls will cool you down as the gaze at the impressive power of the 308-foot tall waterfall. After you get your fill of the Falls, you have to climb back up the stairs, which is where the difficulty lies. Luckily, there are lots of benches and rest areas along the way. This trail is also very popular so expect it to be crowded, but the views of the waterfall can’t be beat.

6) Jenny Lake Loop – Grand Teton National Park

Back in Grand Teton National Park, this hike around Jenny Lake and up to Inspiration Point is one of the most popular in the entire park. The trail is relatively flat until you start climbing to the overlook at Inspiration Point and is 7 miles in total. As you begin your climb and reach the viewpoint over the lake, continue on to Hidden Falls, an 80-foot waterfall, before making your way up to Inspiration Point, which has great views of the lake and Tetons.

To cut 3 miles off your trip, there are boat rides available across the lake if you don’t want to hike around the entire thing. In addition, this area has abundant wildlife. Moose, bear, marmots, and friendly squirrels are all commonly seen. If this hike is too short for you, there is a great extension available. From Inspiration point, continue into Cascade Canyon for more views of the mountains and glacial valleys. If you continue through Cascade and into Paintbrush Canyon, you can do a 19-mile loop that will put you back out at Lake Jenny, right where you started.

7) Summit Hike – Jackson Hole

While this is less of a hike and more of a downhill trot back into town, it is only takes a couple hours to see the entire valley, all of the Teton Range, and even a few of the mountains in Yellowstone. Less than a mile outside of town, a gondola takes you up to the top of 10,450-foot Rendezvous Mountain, where lunch or ice-cream is a favorite treat before heading back down. The trail down is quite steep but manageable even for a beginner. For a longer and more difficult half-day hike, take the trail both up and down.

8) Medicine Bow Peak Trail – Medicine Bow National Forest

In southern Wyoming, outside of Laramie, the Snowy Range has some great hikes without the crowds of the national parks. One of the best hikes in the range is the trail leading to the top of Medicine Bow Peak. It’s a 7-mile loop that gains only about 2,000 feet of elevation, making the hike to the over 12,000-foot peak attainable for most hikers. Along the way, meadows and lakes dot the landscape and from the peak, spectacular views of the entire Snowy and Front Ranges are impressive.

9) Teton Crest Trail – Grand Teton National Park

If you’re in Grand Teton National Park and can’t decide which trails you want to take and which views are the best, why not do them all? The Teton Crest Trail is a 35-mile, one-way trail that cuts through the center of the park, giving you all the highlights over the course of 3 or 4 days. Since the entirety of the hike is at high altitude and snow makes much of it impassable, the whole trail is only open from July to September and you need to secure a camping permit beforehand.

The trail begins either at the top of Rendezvous Mountain, near downtown Jackson Hole, or at Leigh Lake within the park. The trail takes you past several beautiful mountain lakes, including popular Lake Solitude, and over three mountain passes, the most scenic being Hurricane Pass. On your way, travel through the magnificent Cascade and Death Canyons, with the Tetons looming over you. No matter your hiking level, be sure to take your time on this trail, not just because of the altitude and difficulty, but to take the appropriate amount of time to truly appreciate the grandeur all around you.

10) The Thorofare – Yellowstone National Park

The last hike on the list is by far the longest and the most remote. Taking at least a week in most cases, the 65-mile Thorofare Trail takes you through absolute wilderness. At some points, the trail is more than 30 miles from the nearest road. To become fully immersed in nature in one of the most beautiful places on earth, grab your pack and start The Thorofare.

The trail begins along the eastern shores of Lake Yellowstone, taking you along its edge with lush meadows and stands of pine trees on your other side. As you continue south, the trail gains elevation and you turn west to go through Eagle Pass. The following couple days and dozen or so miles take you across difficult terrain and up into the mountains at elevations around 9,000 feet, before finally flattening out and ending next to the south entrance of the park a couple days later.

Before attempting this week-long adventure, there are a few things you need to think about. First, this area is home to both grizzly bears and wolf packs. Be “bear-aware” and always take precautions with your food and campsite setup. In addition, while the local bison may seem like furry cows, they are wild animals and are quite territorial. Give them the same respect you would a bear to avoid catastrophe. Also, be sure to bring lots of clothing. The weather in the area is unpredictable and the temperature can fluctuate rapidly. There are also many river crossings, so have a dry bag with several changes of clothes readily available. With certain precautions and careful planning, this hike can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.