Hiking the Agate Creek Trail
Agate Creek Trail, Yellowstone National Park
Hike #5, Agate Creek Trail
Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trailhead 2K7
Northeast Section - Minimal Traffic
Yellowstone National Park

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Location: Northeast Section (See map to the right)
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult - Out-and-back or overnighter
Distance: 14.4 mi/23 km round-trip
Elevation Gain: 2,258 ft.
Best time to visit: June-October

Backcountry Camping: Yes. 1 site - 2Y1
Click here to view a list of the backcountry campsites for this area.

Full Description: Read the full description or view photos of this hike.
Trail Maps: Beartooth Publishing - Yellowstone National Park

Finding the Trailhead - Yellowstone RIver Picnic Area (2K7)
From Mammoth Hot Springs:
Drive approximately 19.4 miles east on route 212 towards Tower Junction. When you reach Tower Junction make a left and continue toward Cooke City for another 1.2 miles. The Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trailhead is located on the right after crossing the Yellowstone River.
Get Directions from Mammoth Hot Springs

Read more about obtaining Yellowstone Backcountry Permits.





Agate Creek Trailhead Location
CURRENT MOON


Agate Creek Overview Map
Topo Map for the Agate Creek Trail in Yellowstone
Agate Creek Trail Stats


Trail Details
Trail Condition: Excellent
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Total Mileage: 14.4 mi /23 km round-trip
Type of Hike: Out-and-back or overnighter
Wow Factor: Views of Mt. Washburn & Yellowstone R.
Elevation Gain: 2,258 ft.

Nearest Facilities: Mammoth Hot Springs
19.4 miles east of Mammoth Hot Springs - Get Directions
Trailhead Coordinates
Latitude: 44.917243
Longitude: -110.399900

Yellowstone River Coordinates
Latitude: 44.850571
Longitude: -110.360380

Approx. Elevations
Trailhead Elevation = 6,265 ft.
River Elevation = 6,392 ft.
Elevation Gain = 2,258 ft.
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Yellowstone Backcountry Info

Yellowstone Backcountry Trip Planner
Agate Creek Photo Gallery
Agate Creek Trail Description

Agate Creek Trail Description (Trailhead 2K7) - Minimal Traffic

The Yellowstone is one of the last untamed rivers in the U.S. and this hike will give you a birds-eye view of this iconic river as it carves its way through the surrounding landscape.

From the Yellowstone River Picnic Area you'll climb a short hill among Douglas fir trees and large granite boulders (glacial erratics) that were deposited here over 13,000 years ago during a period of intense glaciation. After reaching the ridge in 0.2 miles you'll have spectacular views in all directions with the Yellowstone River winding through a narrow canyon on your right. The river lies about 500 feet below the trail and during the first two miles there will be a number of interesting viewpoints down into this steep canyon. At 0.4 miles you'll see the white slopes of Calcite Springs which emits a very strong rotten egg/ sulphur smell that, when conditions are right, can be a bit overwhelming. On a windy day this odor can drift as far as Specimen Ridge which is another three miles to the east. As you walk a little farther up the ridge you'll notice the river becomes restricted by a canyon know as the 'Narrows'. If you you look closely at the thin dark spires of rock that protrude from the canyon walls you may see birds nesting on the very tops of these towering spires. At just under two miles there is a wonderful view of the Yellowstone River and the rolling hills that border this stretch of the canyon.

At 1.9 miles the Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trail meets the Specimen Ridge Trail and begins a short but steep climb to the large plateau above. As you near the top of this short ridge be on the lookout for a single switchback that will take you to the right and up the remainder of this incline. After reaching the ridge the trail continues through a landscape of sagebrush that stretches as far as the eye can see. At 2.1 miles the Agate Creek Trail splits and begins heading south through similar terrain. Bison, pronghorn antelope, elk, wolves and grizzly bears can often be found roaming this giant plateau. As you continue south along the trail the summit of Mount Washburn will dominate the view across the wide canyon that cradles the Yellowstone River. To the east the barren hillsides leading to Specimen Ridge and Amethyst Mountain will be dotted with the dark silhouettes of bison as they quietly graze on the grasses found on these rolling hillsides.

At 4.6 miles the trail crosses Quartz Creek (often dry) and continues climbing gently toward its highest point at 7,642 feet. From here you can look directly across at Mount Washburn and the entire Washburn Range. To the right of this peak you may catch a glimpse of the Grand Loop Road and the occasional reflection of a car windshield as vehicles make their way up and over Dunraven Pass. This is a great place to stop for lunch and soak up one of the best views along the trail.

From here the trail descends 1,300 ft. to the banks of the Yellowstone in 1.6 miles. Trail conditions on this section are steep and gravelly and a little less than perfect, but are easily passable. The hillside is strewn with burnt and broken trees and new growth can be seen in areas closer to the river. At 7.2 miles you'll reach the only campsite along the trail, 2Y1 (★★). This is a nice site but it is still a half mile to the river which makes access to drinking water difficult. The campsite does have a great view of the Yellowstone River but hauling water to camp will be a chore.

The last half mile to the river is steep and rocky and ends in a wooded section along the banks of the Yellowstone. There is considerable blow-down that makes access to the large gravel bar to the north a test of balance, and you'll need to hop over a handful of downed trees to reach this isolated beach. The gravel bar extends about 0.2 miles north along the river and is a great place to fish. You can wade fish or cast easily from shore, either way the fishing is stellar here. The cutthroats are big, hungry and will take just about any pattern you dangle in front of them. Stay and fish until your arms get tired hauling in lunker trout and head back to civilization knowing you've seen another special place in the backcountry of Yellowstone.

NOTE: The trailhead for this hike is part of the picnic area. Please park near the outhouse or under the large pine trees in the center of the parking lot. This will leave room for those visitors who wish to use the picnic tables.





Click here to download your FREE Yellowstone Backcountry Trip Planner - Contains backcountry campsite information, backcountry permit information, park service phone numbers, bear management information and hiking/backpacking checklists.

WARNING: YOU MUST BE WELL PREPARED and carry the necessary equipment to make your hike a safe one. You are responsible for your own well-being while trekking in these remote wilderness locations. Help or rescue can be hours or even days away.

Read more about obtaining Yellowstone Backcountry Permits.







Nearby Hiking Trails
Blacktail Deer Creek (Trailhead 1N5) - Provides access to the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone & Yellowstone River Trail.
Tower Junction/Garnet Hill Loop (Trailhead 2K2) - An easy 8 mile loop with plenty of great scenery.
Specimen Ridge (Trailhead 2K4) - A long open ridge that tops out on Amethyst Mountain (9,614 ft.).
Slough Creek (Trailhead 2K5) - A premier destination for hiking, backpacking and fly fishing.
Buffalo Plateau (Trailhead 2K8) - A long hike that climbs to the northern border of the park and the spacious Buffalo Plateau.
Hellroaring (Trailhead 2K8) - Provides access to the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone, Buffalo Plateau, Coyote Creek and Garnet Hill Trails.
Lost Lake (Located behind Tower/Roosevelt Lodge) - An easy day hike to a beautiful waterfall, Lost Lake and a petrified tree.



Nearby Campgrounds
Tower Fall Campground - Tower Fall Campground is located approximately 3.6 miles southeast of the Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trailhead and has 32 primitive sites and vault toilets. Campsites are $15.00 per night. Reservations are not accepted. Generators are not permitted. A general store and gas station (seasonal) are located near Tower Fall and Tower Junction - Get directions from the Yellowstone River Picnic Area to the Tower Fall Campground.

Slough Creek Campground - Slough Creek Campground is located approximately 7 miles east of the Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trailhead and has 23 primitive sites and vault toilets. Campsites are $15.00 per night. Reservations are not accepted. Generators are not permitted. Located 2 miles off the NE Entrance Road - Get directions from the Yellowstone River Picnic Area to the Slough Creek Campground.

Mammoth Campground - Open Year-round - Mammoth Campground is located approximately 20 miles west of the Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trailhead and has 85 sites that are mostly pull-through. Campground has flush-toilets. Campsites are $20.00 per night. Reservations are not accepted. Generators are permitted from 8am - 8pm. A gas station, general store, restaurants, a hotel and visitor center are located nearby at Mammoth Hot Springs - Get directions from the Yellowstone River Picnic Area to the Mammoth Campground.



Yellowstone National Park Backcountry Permits
Overnight backcountry permits can be obtained at the Albright Visitor Center (at Mammoth Hot Springs). Open daily, year-round. Hours vary depending on the time of year - (307) 344-2263. Read more about obtaining Yellowstone Backcountry Permits.

Post Hike Meals
The following restaurants are located in Mammoth and Gardiner.

The Corral Drive-In - Located in Gardiner (Awesome burgers) - Directions
K Bar & Cafe - Pizza and beer. 202 Main Street in Gardiner - Directions
Outlaws Pizza - You guessed it...Pizza. Located on Scott Street in Gardiner - Directions
Terrace Grill - Fast food. Located in Mammoth

Directions to the Agate Creek Trailhead
Beartooth Publishing Outdoor Recreational Maps
The following map from Beartooth Publishing covers all of the hiking trails located in Yellowstone National Park. For more information about these maps click here.






Directions to the Agate Creek Trailhead

Click the map to launch directions
from Mammoth Hot Springs to the
Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trailhead.



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