Buffalo Plateau Trail, Yellowstone National Park
Hike #2, Buffalo Plateau Trail
Hellroaring Trailhead 2K8
Northeast Section - Minimal Traffic
Yellowstone National Park

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Location: Northeast Section (See map to the right)
Difficulty: Difficult - Out-and-back or overnighter
Distance: 14.8 mi/23.8 km round-trip to campsite 2B1
Elevation Gain: 2,540 ft.
Best time to visit: June-November (Campsite 2B1 may have snow until late June)

Backcountry Camping: Yes. 9 sites - 2H1, 2H2, 2H3, 2H4, 2H5, 2H6, 2H7, 2H8 & 2B1. 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 - Hellroaring (2K8)
From Mammoth Hot Springs:
Drive approximately 14.5 miles east on route 212 towards Tower Junction. The trailhead is located on the left at the end of a gravel road. Get Directions from Mammoth Hot Springs

NOTE - Backcountry camping 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.

Buffalo Plateau Trailhead Location

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Buffalo Plateau Overview Map
Buffalo Plateau Trail Stats

Trail Details
Trail Condition: Excellent to Fair
Difficulty: Difficult
Total Mileage: 14.8 mi /23.8 km round-trip
Type of Hike: Out-and-back or overnighter
Wow Factor: The view from this high plateau is amazing
Elevation Gain: 2,540 ft.

Nearest Facilities: Mammoth Hot Springs
14.5 miles west of Mammoth Hot Springs - Get Directions
Trailhead Coordinates
Latitude: 44.947495
Longitude: -110.453732

Campsite Coordinates
Latitude: 45.015727
Longitude: -110.378222

Approx. Elevations
Trailhead Elevation = 6,466 ft.
Campsite Elevation = 8,399 ft.
Elevation Gain = 2,540 ft.
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Yellowstone Backcountry Info

Yellowstone Backcountry Trip Planner
Buffalo Plateau Photo Gallery
Buffalo Plateau Trail Description

Buffalo Plateau Trail Description (Trailhead 2K8) - Moderate Traffic

This trail climbs 2,500 feet toward the northern boundary of Yellowstone where your efforts are rewarded with endless panoramas during the day and a night sky filled with millions of stars that feel close enough to touch.

From the Hellroaring Trailhead just east of Tower Junction the trail descends about 600 feet through a series of switchbacks toward the Yellowstone River and the narrow canyon below. On the descent you'll have a spectacular view of the Yellowstone River, the rocky, pyramid shaped peak of Hellroaring Mountain and the beautiful open hillside that gradually climbs 2,500 feet to the plateau to the north. At about 1.0 mile you'll reach a large steel suspension bridge (Yellowstone River Suspension Bridge) that arcs across a narrow section of the Yellowstone River. This footbridge is over 350 feet across and from the deck of the bridge you'll have a birds-eye view of the turbulent waters of the Yellowstone as it rush through this narrow section of the Black Canyon.

After crossing the suspension bridge the trail winds through an area of large boulders, sagebrush and tall pines before descending through a small notch. This area is one of the last wooded sections of the trail that you'll encounter until you reach the ridge high above. At 1.5 miles you'll come to a junction with the Yellowstone River Trail which continues northwest before it meets Heallroaring Creek. From this trail junction head right and begin climbing the broad open expanse of this hillside that eventually leads to the top of Buffalo Plateau. While this is a deceptively gradual climb it's about 2.5 miles to the top of this first incline, and the trail is often faint through this area. If you pace yourself and take the time to soak in the views to the southwest the climb doesn't seem as long. We didn't see much wildlife on our hike up this hillside but on other trips through this area there were often elk, pronghorn antelope, bison and grizzly bears roaming these vast foothills below the plateau. Wildflowers however, are visible throughout the entire hike and I'm always amazed at the wide variety of unique species that exist in these little microcosms of the park.

After you reach the top of this first climb there are stunning views back down the entire length of this drainage, and the panoramas roll on toward Mammoth Hot Springs and the prominent Gallatin Range to the southwest, with Electric Peak being the tallest mountain at their north edge. At this point the grade flattens briefly as the hike reaches an elevation of 7,400 feet. The trail crosses two small creeks that descend from the upper plateau, and at 5.5 miles another panorama opens to the south as you hike past sagebrush and a beautiful pine forest that offers a nice bit of shade.

From this location the trail continues climbing over a series of short hills through an old burn until it reaches Coyote Creek at around 6.6 miles. This little stream was still flowing very heavily and it was definitely a bit too wide to jump across. However, if you use the downed logs that span the creek as a support for your hands, you can traverse the stream by carefully placing your feet on the larger rocks that are just about level with the waterline. During the summer this section of Coyote Creek is much easier to cross.

After navigating Coyote Creek the trail climbs a small hillside in a series of short switchbacks until you reach the spur trail to campsite 2B1 at around 6.75 miles. The campsite was our destination for this particular hike. The trail doesn't get much use through here and is somewhat hard to follow but as you near the spur trail it becomes more distinct. It's only 0.7 miles to campsite 2B1 (★★★) which is hidden in a cluster of tall pine trees just below the ridgeline. You'll pass another burned area before descending to an unnamed creek where you'll climb briefly to this nicely wooded campsite. There is a small stream located near the cooking area that makes collecting water easy. Drop your pack and relax in the shade of these tall pines before setting up camp (see option below).

Additional Hiking Opportunity
If you still have the energy after arriving in camp, follow the second trail indicated on the Google Earth link below, north for about a mile. From this high plateau the glacially carved peaks of the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness fill the northern horizon and to the south Mount Washburn rises to meet the endless sky overhead. This side hike is well worth the effort and it really makes this overnight trip worth while. NOTE: This is off trail travel so make sure you have a good sense of direction and can return to camp safely.

Just a bit west of the cooking area is a large meadow where we would recommend camping if it's not too hot. Pitch your tent along the edge of this rolling meadow, leave the rain fly packed away, and fall asleep under a night sky filled with a myriad of shimmering stars.

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.
Agate Creek (Trailhead 2K7) - Climbs to a beautiful open ridge before descending steeply to the Yellowstone River. Great fishing.
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 6 miles east of the Hellroaring 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 - Directions from the Hellroaring Trailhead to the Tower Fall Campground.

Mammoth Campground - Open Year-round - Mammoth Campground is located approximately 15 miles east of the Hellroaring 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 8 am - 8 pm. A gas station, general store, restaurants, a hotel and visitor center are located nearby at Mammoth Hot Springs - Directions from the Hellroaring Trailhead to the Mammoth 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 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

Maps for Hiking Buffalo Plateau 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 Buffalo Plateau Trailhead

Click the map to launch directions
from Mammoth Hot Springs to the
Buffalo Plateau/Hellroaring Trailhead.


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