Hiking the Garnet Hill Loop Trail
Garnet Hill Loop Trail, Yellowstone National Park
Hike #3, Garnet Hill Loop Trail
Garnet Hill Loop Trailhead 2K2
Northeast Section - Moderate Traffic
Yellowstone National Park

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Location: Northeast Section (See map to the right)
Difficulty: Easy - Out-and-back or loop
Distance: 7.7 mi/12.4 km as a loop
Elevation Gain: 580 ft.
Best time to visit: May-November

Backcountry Camping: No

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

Finding the Trailhead - Garnet Hill Loop (2K2)
From Mammoth Hot Springs:
Drive approximately 18.4 miles east on route 212 to Tower Junction. When you reach Tower Junction make a left and continue toward Cooke City. The Garnet Hill Loop Trailhead is located on the left 0.3 of a mile past this intersection. A small parking lot is located opposite the trailhead. NOTE: Do not park in front of the footbridge that crosses the small creek. Horseback riders from the Roosevelt Lodge use this bridge to access the nearby trails.
Get Directions from Mammoth Hot Springs

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Garnet Hill Loop Trailhead Location
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Garnet Hill Loop Overview Map
Garnet Hill Loop Trail Stats


Trail Details
Trail Condition: Excellent
Difficulty: Easy
Total Mileage: 7.7 mi /12.4 km as a loop
Type of Hike: Out-and-back or loop
Wow Factor: An easy hike with plenty of great scenery
Elevation Gain: 580 ft.

Nearest Facilities: Mammoth Hot Springs
18.4 miles east of Mammoth Hot Springs - Get Directions
Trailhead Coordinates
Latitude: 44.919630
Longitude: -110.412692

Approx. Elevations
Trailhead Elevation = 6,207 ft.
Yellowstone River Elevation = 5,887 ft.
Elevation Gain = 580 ft.
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Garnet Hill Loop Trail Description

Garnet Hill Loop Trail Description (Trailhead 2K2) - Moderate Traffic

This is a wonderful hike for beginners that takes you on a beautiful eight mile loop alongside the pristine waters of the Yellowstone River, over gently rolling hillsides and through sagebrush-filled valleys dotted with wildlife.

After leaving the roadside parking lot at the trailhead you'll probably notice herds of elk, bison and pronghorn antelope grazing on the flats near Tower Junction. These animals frequent this area throughout most of the year they can usually be seen lounging around the valley as well as the hillsides surrounding the trail. Over the first half mile you'll skirt the eastern edge of Pleasant Valley as you cross gently undulating terrain filled with low-lying sagebrush and herds of bison. During the spring this area contains a number of small "phantom" ponds that will eventually evaporate with onset of warmer weather but at this time of the year they provide the landscape with a nice contrast to the muted colors of early spring. Large boulders, know as glacial erratics, dot the open landscape. These boulders were carried here by glaciers from the Beartooth Plateau farther to the east.

At mile 0.5 the trail splits (we're traveling in a counterclockwise direction) and continues heading in a northerly direction, climbing a number of small hills before it reaches the highest point along the trail at 6,350 ft. At mile 0.8 the Yellowstone River appears to the east (right) where it is joined by the pristine waters of the Lamar River. If you enjoy both hiking and fly fishing we highly recommend packing the fly rod because there are a number of tempting fishing holes along the trail where access to the Yellowstone River is generally quite easy.

Over the next 1.5 miles the terrain remains very much with same—gently rolling hills covered with sagebrush. To the northeast the Buffalo Plateau rises toward Yellowstone's northern borders and the dramatic Absaroka Beartooth Mountains. At 2.4 miles the trail descends a short steep grade through a small stand of pine trees before reaching a small and secluded valley bordered by the western edge of Garnett Hill and the Yellowstone River to the north and east. This is another isolated location that often harbors plenty of wildlife, and as we passed through this location there were a number of bison grazing on the first grasses of spring. Newborn bison calves, affectionately known as red dogs, could be seen relaxing near their mothers, taking in the first sights and sounds of their strange new world.

After leaving this secluded little valley the trail remains flat as you hike between the steep banks of the Yellowstone River and the rocky slopes of Garnett Hill (for some reason the name of the peak and the trail are spelled differently). At 3.5 miles the trail begins climbing as you head around the north end of Garnett Hill. The landscape opens once again with views across the Yellowstone River toward the Buffalo Plateau. At this location the banks of the river become much steeper as the Yellowstone is squeezed through a narrow canyon. Here you'll get one last look at the river before it bends out of sight and continues its journey west along the park's northern boundary. Elk Creek descends to meet the Yellowstone River at mile 4.2 just before you reach the junction with the Hellroaring Trail at 4.4 miles. From this intersection the Garnet Hill Loop Trail heads south/left, climbing at an easy grade as it follows Elk Creek south toward Pleasant Valley.

For next 1.5 miles the trail becomes partially wooded and a bit shadier as you ascend along Elk Creek. Large boulders and scree are common along this stretch of the trail and alders grow in profusion beside the banks of this small and winding stream. A series of small meadows flanked by large pine trees will often conceal mule deer and bison as they feed in the timber just beyond the trail.

At mile 5.8 the trail crosses Elk Creek on a small footbridge where it soon exits the woods at the north end of Pleasant Valley. After leaving the forest you'll notice a series of wooden structures that house picnic tables for the Roosevelt Old West Dinner Cookout. Guest are brought to this location on horseback or covered wagon from the Roosevelt Lodge where they enjoy a hearty buffet-style dinner at what is known as Yancey's Hole. John Yancey once owned a hotel at this location which was called "Yancey's Pleasant Valley Hotel." Early Yellowstone travelers heading between Mammoth Hot Springs and Cooke City could rent a room for the night in this peaceful little valley. If you've worked up an appetite during your hike make sure you inquire about the Roosevelt Old West Dinner Cookout. An early morning hike and a hearty meal at the cookout are the perfect way to spend the day in Yellowstone.

From this location you have the option of hiking along the old stage road that runs along the southern edge of Pleasant Valley. Following the dirt road will take you back to the intersection at Tower Junction which is located very near the Roosevelt Lodge. For the final mile of this hike we traversed the valley in an easterly direction, crossing a small creek via a wooden footbridge at mile 6.8. Before long this trail reconnects with the first part of the trail at mile 7.25. There are a number of game trails that crisscross this valley but the railings of the footbridge are clearly visible in the distance and mark the direction of travel for this hike. The trail gains elevation briefly after leaving the valley and then rejoins the main trail shortly thereafter. From the trail junction at mile 7.25 you'll simply retrace your steps back to the Garnet Hill Loop Trailhead.



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.
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.
Agate Creek (Trailhead 2K7) - Climbs to a beautiful open ridge before descending steeply to the Yellowstone River. Great 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 2.7 miles southeast of the Garnett Hill Loop 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 Garnet Hill Loop Trail to the Tower Fall Campground.

Slough Creek Campground - Slough Creek Campground is located approximately 7.8 miles east of the Garnett Hill Loop 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 Garnet Hill Loop Trail to the Slough Creek Campground.

Mammoth Campground - Open Year-round - Mammoth Campground is located approximately 19.2 miles west of the Garnett Hill Loop 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 Garnet Hill Loop Trail 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 Garnet Hill Loop 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 Garnett Hill Loop Trailhead

Click the map to launch directions
from Mammoth Hot Springs to the
Garnet Hill Loop Trailhead.



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