Hiking the Phantom Pitchstone Trail
Pitchstone Plateau, Yellowstone National Park
Hike #5, Pitchstone Plateau Trail
Phantom-Pitchstone Trailhead 8K4
Southwest Section - Minimal Traffic
Yellowstone National Park

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Location: Southwest Section (See map to the right)
Difficulty: Moderate - Out-and-back, point-2-point or overnighter
Distance: 11.0 mi/17.7 km round-trip
Elevation Gain: 815 ft.
Best time to visit: July-October

Backcountry Camping: Yes. 2 sites - 8P1 & 8P2
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.t
Trail Maps: Beartooth Publishing - Yellowstone National Park

Finding the Trailhead - Phantom/Pitchstone (8K4)
From Grant Village:
Drive approximately 11.4 miles south toward Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park via the South Entrance Road. The Phantom/Pitchstone Trailhead will be on the right about 1.8 miles past Lewis Falls. NOTE: The small pullout for this trailhead can only accommodate 2 or 3 vehicles at most so please park accordingly. There is another small pullout just south of the trailhead where one additional vehicle can park. Get Directions from Grant Village

Phantom/Pitchstone Trailhead Location

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Pitchstone Plateau Overview Map
Phantom/Pitchstone Trail Stats

Trail Details
Trail Condition: Fair to Poor
Difficulty: Moderate
Total Mileage: 11.0 mi /17.7 km as an out and back
Type of Hike: Out-and-back, point-2-point or overnighter
Wow Factor: Take the road/trail less traveled
Elevation Gain: 815 ft.

Nearest Facilities: Grant Village
11.4 miles south of Grant Village - Get Directions
Trailhead Coordinates
Latitude: 44.243220
Longitude: -110.647213

Campsite Coordinates
Latitude: 44.228257
Longitude: -110.737853

Approx. Elevations
Trailhead Elevation = 7,740 ft.
Campsites = 8,555 ft.
Elevation Gain = 815 ft.
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Yellowstone Backcountry Info

Yellowstone Backcountry Trip Planner
Phantom/Pitchstone Photo Gallery
Pitchstone Plateau Trail Description

Pitchstone Plateau Trail Description (Trailhead 8K4) - Minimal Traffic

The Pitchstone Plateau is located in the southwest corner of Yellowstone well off the beaten path. The trail takes you across ancient rhyolite lava flows, past a hydrothermal feature known as the "phantom fumarole" and southwest to a high meadow where you'll find two magnificent campsites with views of the Grand Tetons.

From the pullout along the South Entrance Road it's a steep uphill grind for about 0.6 miles as you hike toward the eastern edge of the Pitchstone Plateau. The initial climb contains plenty of loose rocks that will make the descent somewhat difficult so use caution on the return trip, especially if you're carrying a heavy pack. As you near the top of this rocky incline be sure look over your shoulder and take in the view of the Lewis River and the Red Mountains further to the east. From here it won't be long before the sound of automobile traffic along the South Entrance Road fades away and the stillness of the Yellowstone wilderness settles in around you.

The Pitchstone Plateau is located in the south central region of Yellowstone and is one of nine plateaus located within the park (Mirror, Madison, Central, Pitchstone, Blacktail Deer, Two Ocean, Buffalo, Trident and Solfatara). The plateau was formed by rhyolite lava flows that occurred in the region more than 70,000 years ago. A great deal of snow accumulates on the plateau during the winter but in July it can feel incredibly dry. There is very little water, if any, until you reach the backcountry campsites at mile 5.5 but the presence of mosquitoes will have you wondering how they manage to thrive in this dry environment. If you hike this trail in June or July be sure to carry a good supply of insect repellent.

At 1.5 miles the trail reaches an overlook that provides a view into a deep u-shaped valley extending northeast toward Lewis Falls. The scenery is littered with standing dead and downed trees that cover the hillsides in every direction and it's one of the few places along the trail where you can see for any significant distance. It's also a great place to stop and look for wildlife that may be foraging in and around the valley floor. From here the terrain levels out considerably as you pass through patches of burned and unburned forest on your way to the Phantom Fumarole.

As you approach the Phantom Fumarole at 4.5 miles you'll hear the telltale hissing sound that emanates from these high-pressure gas vents. Fumaroles are extremely hot and what little water is contained within them can only escape as steam and they sound just like jet engines as the vapor is released into the atmosphere in a continuous roar. The landscape surrounding this area is an interesting mix of coarse gravel, thick spongy mosses and clusters of yellow sulphur flowers. The trail is faint through here but if you stay to the left the orange trail markers are clearly visible across this unusual landscape.

After passing the fumarole the trail climbs a small hill and continues heading southwest toward campsites 8P1 and 8P2. As you pass through a series of small meadows the trail becomes extremely faint but if you look for the cairns (man-made piles of stones) they will help you navigate these short, trailless landscapes.

At mile 5.5 you'll reach a large meadow where campsites 8P1 and 8P2 (★★★★) are tucked away at the very northeast edge of this open expanse. Both campsites are located very close to one another but the chances of having another group camped nearby is probably very rare because this area sees very little traffic. Site 8P1 is located in a thick stand of spruce trees on the left while site 8P2 can be found to the right on the opposite side of a small spring that flows between these two sites. 8P2 is much more open and less secluded compared to 8P1.

On the southern horizon the massive peaks of the Grand Tetons are clearly visible across this broad, flat meadow. This is a quiet and remote destination that provides backpackers with a nice alternative to the busier hiking trails in this region (Dogshead and Heart Lake).

NOTE: The Pitchstone Plateau Trail continues past these two campsites, heading in a southwesterly direction for another 11 miles before joining the Mountain Ash Creek Trail 1.0 mile west of the Grassy Lake Reservoir.

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
Riddle Lake (Trailhead 7K3) - A very popular and easy day hike to Riddle Lake.
Lewis Channel/Dogshead Trail (Trailhead 8K1) - Follows the Lewis River to Shoshone Lake. Great fishing.
Heart Lake (Trailhead 8N1) - Provides access to Mount Sheridan and the Trail Creek Trail. A great multi-day backpacking destination.

Nearby Campgrounds
Grant Village Campground - Grant Village Campground is located approximately 13.2 miles north of the Phantom/Pitchstone Trail and has 430 sites and full amenities. Sites are $29.00 + per night. Includes 2 showers per day. Reservations accepted. Generators are permitted from 8am - 8pm. Click here to make online reservations or call: 1-866-439-7375. A general store, restaurant, gift shop, visitor center and gas station (seasonal) are located nearby - Get directions from the Phantom/Pitchstone Trailhead to the Grant Village Campground.

Lewis Lake Campground - Lewis Lake Campground is located approximately 3.1 miles south of the Phantom/Pitchstone Trail and has 85 sites. Campsites are $15.00 per night. Reservations are not accepted. Generators are not permitted. Not recommended for motorhomes or trailers over 25' - Get directions from the Phantom/Pitchstone Trailhead to the Lewis Lake Campground.

Post Hike Meals
There is a restaurant, general store, gas station, visitor center and gift shop located approximately 12 miles away at Grant Village.

Directions to the Phantom/Pitchstone 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 Phantom/Pitchstone Trailhead

Click the map to launch directions
from Grant Village to the
Phantom/Pitchstone Trail.


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