Hiking the Lamar River Trail
Lamar River Trail, Yellowstone National Park
Hike #12, Lamar River Trail to Cache Creek
Lamar River/ Soda Butte Trailhead 3K1
Northeast Section - Moderate to Heavy Traffic
Yellowstone National Park

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Location: Northeast Section (See map to the right)
Difficulty: Easy - Out-and-back
Distance: 7 mi/11.2 km round-trip
Elevation Gain: 395 ft.
Best time to visit: April-November

Backcountry Camping: Yes. 2 sites - 3L1 & 3L2
NOTE: Campsite 3L2 is located on the south side of Cache Creek and may not be accessible during the spring runoff - Late May to early July.

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

Finding the Trailhead
From Mammoth Hot Springs:
Drive approximately 32.8 miles east on US 212/ NE Entrance Road towards the town of Cooke City, MT. The parking lot for the trailhead will be on the right just past the stock trailhead. Get Directions from Mammoth Hot Springs

From Cooke City: The Lamar River/ Soda Butte Trailhead is approximately 17.5 miles west of Cooke City on US 212/ NE Entrance Road. Get Directions from Cooke City





Lamar River/ Soda Butte Trailhead Location
CURRENT MOON


Lamar River Overview Map
Trout Lake Trail Stats


Trail Details
Trail Condition: Excellent
Difficulty: Easy
Total Mileage: 7 mi /11.2 km round-trip
Type of Hike: Out-and-back or overnighter
Wow Factor: Incredible scenery and wildlife
Elevation Gain: 395 ft.

Nearest Towns: Mammoth & Cooke City, MT
32.8 miles east of Mammoth Hot Springs - Get Directions
17.5 miles west of Cooke City, MT - Get Directions
Trailhead Coordinates
Latitude: 44.869268
Longitude: -110.166556

Cache Creek Coordinates
Latitude: 44.831895
Longitude: -110.146619

Approx. Elevations
Trailhead Elevation = 6,655 ft.
Cache Creek Elevation = 6,748 ft.
Elevation Gain = 395 ft.
FREE Trip Planner
Yellowstone Backcountry Info


Lamar River Trail Photo Gallery
Lamar River Trail Description

Lamar River Trail to Cache Creek Description (Trailhead 3K1) - Moderate to Heavy Traffic

The Lamar Valley is often referred to as the American Serengeti and the Lamar River Trail will take you through some of Yellowstone's premier wildlife habitat. The first few miles of the trail are very easy and very rewarding, and you'll feel as if you've stepped back in time as you hike in the footsteps of bison, pronghorn antelope, grizzly bears and the elusive gray wolf.

From the moment you set foot on the Lamar River Trail you'll be drawn in by the sweeping panoramas of the Lamar Valley. Even if you explore just a few miles of this trail you'll feel as though your part of the landscape as you walk beside herds of bison grazing near the trail. The howl of wolves can also be heard echoing from the hillsides that surround this wild and primitive wilderness, and if you're lucky you may catch a glimpse of these keen predators as they hunt for food along the valley floor.

After leaving the parking lot the trail immediately crosses Soda Butte Creek on a sturdy wooden footbridge that provides access to the Lamar Valley. Sagebrush covers much of the landscape and the remnants of old river channels once carved by Soda Butte Creek contain pools of water left by the snows of winter. At 0.5 miles the trail climbs a small hillside and levels out again on this broad, flat terrain. Wildflowers growing in the rocky soil between the dry and twisted branches of sagebrush add splashes of color against the grey-green foliage.

At 1.2 miles you reach the junction with the stock trail which enters from the right. The upper sections of the Lamar River Trail are popular with outfitters who offer guided trips carrying guests deep into the Yellowstone wilderness on horseback. At 1.4 miles the Specimen Ridge Trail enters from the right where it quickly disappears over a small hillside. This trail continues heading west, crossing the Lamar River at 2.0 miles before climbing to the top of Amethyst Mountain along the southeast end of Specimen Ridge (highly recommended). NOTE: The Lamar River is difficult to cross at this location during the spring runoff so keep this in mind if you plan to tackle the Specimen Ridge Trail from this direction. The trail is also accessible just east of Tower Junction.

The Lamar River Trail heads left (south) and begins a very gradual climb as it continues toward Cache Creek. Oddly enough you never get to see the Lamar River as you hike the first few miles of the trail. Your first glimpse of the Lamar River comes after hiking nearly six miles along this trail.

As the trail gains elevation you'll have a sweeping view across the Lamar Valley stretching to the northwest. Pronghorn antelope and bison are easy to spot as they graze in this vast landscape. At mile 2.3 you reach the highest point along the trail and begin descending toward Cache Creek. At mile 3.0 the junction with the Cache Creek Trail heads to the left (east). Before long you'll reach a steep hillside that descends toward Cache Creek. There are a number of game trails leading to the creek but if keep your eyes peeled you'll see the orange trail markers that indicate the proper direction. After reaching the creek the Lamar River Trail continues south, crossing Cache Creek at this location.

There are two very nice campsites (3L1 & 3L2) in this area beside Cache Creek and both make for an easy trek if you're looking for a nice and relaxing overnight backpacking destination. Site 3L2 is located on the south side of Cache Creek and requires a ford which can be difficult in the spring when the waters of this Lamar River tributary are running high. Both cutthroat and rainbow trout can be found in Cache Creek and the Lamar River is an easy half mile walk west of the two campsites.

The Lamar River
The Lamar River is a tributary of the Yellowstone River and begins in the Hoodoo Basin high in the Absaroka-Beartooth Mountains along the park's eastern borders. The river is approximately 40 miles in length and provides backpackers with exceptional scenery as well as fly fishing opportunities.





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
Specimen Ridge (Trailhead 2K4) - A long open ridge that tops out on Amethyst Mountain (9,614 ft.).
Slough Creek (Trailhead 2K5) - A premier backcountry destination for day hiking, backpacking, fly fishing.
Soda Butte (Trailhead 3K1) - Walk through the north end of the famed Lamar Valley. Connects with the Lamar River and Cache Creek Trails.
Trout Lake (Trailhead - Trout Lake) - A very easy and popular hike to a lake filled with, you guessed it, trout.
Pebble Creek Trail/ Warm Creek Trailhead 3K4 - A real hidden gem. Connects with Slough Creek via Bliss Pass. Highly recommended.



Nearby Camprounds
Pebble Creek Campground - Pebble Creek Campground is located approximately 4.2 miles northeast of the Lamar River/ Soda Butte Trailhead on the NE Entrance Road and has 27 primitive sites and vault toilets. Campsites are $15.00 per night. Reservations are not accepted. Generators are not permitted - Get Directions from the Lamar River/ Soda Butte Trailhead to the Pebble Creek Campground.

Slough Creek Campground - Slough Creek Campground is located approximately 11.1 miles west of the Lamar River/ Soda Butte 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 Lamar River/ Soda Butte Trailhead to the Slough Creek Campground.

Tower Fall Campground - Tower Fall Campground is located approximately 17.1 miles west of the Lamar River/ Soda Butte 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 Lamar River/ Soda Butte Trailhead to the Tower Fall Campground.



Yellowstone National Park Backcountry Permits
Overnight backcountry permits for this hike 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 Cooke City, Montana.

Beartooth Cafe - Located in Cooke City - 14 Main Street (Awesome sandwiches, burgers and steaks) - Get Directions

Maps for Hiking the Lamar River Trail
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 Lamar River/ Soda Butte Trailhead

Click the Map to Launch Directions from
Mammoth to the Lamar River/ Soda Butte Trailhead.



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