Hiking the Fairy CreekTrail
Fairy Creek Trail, Yellowstone National Park
Hike #2, Fairy Creek Trail
Biscuit Basin Trailhead OK4
Southwest Section - Light to Heavy Traffic
Yellowstone National Park

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Trailhead Location: Southwest Section (See map to the right)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate - Out-and-back, point-2-point, loop or overnighter
Distance: 16.9 mi/27 km as a loop
Elevation Gain: 2,207 ft.
Best time to visit: Late June-October

Backcountry Camping: Yes. 3 sites - OD1, OD2 & OD3
Click here to view a list of backcountry campsites for this area.

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

Finding the Trailhead - Biscuit Basin (OK4)
From Old Faithful:
From Old Faithful drive north toward Madison Junction for approximately 3 miles. The Biscuit Basin Trailhead will be on your left just after you cross the Firehole River. Get Directions from Old Faithful

Backcountry permits can be obtained in West Yellowstone at the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center (307) 344-2876, or at the Old Faithful Ranger Station. For information call the Central Backcountry Office: (307) 344-2160

Read more about obtaining Yellowstone Backcountry Permits.

Fairy Creek Trailhead Location

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Fairy Creek Overview Map
Fairy Creek Trail Stats

Trail Details
Trail Condition: Excellent
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Total Mileage: 16.9 mi /27 km as a loop
Type of Hike: Out-and-back, point-2-point or overnighter
Wow Factor: Beautiful waterfalls, meadows & thermal areas
Elevation Gain: 2,207 ft.

Nearest Facilities: Old Faithful
3 miles north of Old Faithful - Get Directions

Trailhead Coordinates
Latitude: 44.484206
Longitude: -110.851399

End Coordinates
Latitude: 44.484208
Longitude: -110.851399

Approx. Elevations
Start Elevation = 7,275 ft.
Maximum Elevation = 8,235 ft.
Elevation Gain = 2,207 ft.
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Yellowstone Backcountry Info

Fairy Creek Photo Gallery
Fairy Creek Trail Description

Fairy Creek Trail Description (Trailhead OK4) - Easy to Moderate

The Fairy Creek Trail offers hikers an impressive sample of what makes Yellowstone so special. You'll walk past bubbling hot springs and geysers, beautiful waterfalls, open meadows and new forests thick with the next generation of lodgepole pines.

This hike begins at the Biscuit Basin Trailhead located on the Grand Loop Road between Madison Junction and Old Faithful. The Fairy Creek Trail offers a wide variety of scenery and can be done as a simple out and back, a complete 16.9 mile loop, or a point-2-point if you park one car at Biscuit Basin and a second at the Fairy Falls Trailhead.

Biscuit Basin has some very cool—or maybe I should say hot—geysers and colorful hot springs and it was easy to spend a little extra time photographing the thermal features found along the boardwalks. There are a handful of interesting geysers that will certainly grab your attention before you leave the boardwalk, the most notable being Sapphire Pool, Jewel Geyser, Shell Geyser and Avoca Spring.

After leaving the boardwalk at Biscuit Basin the trail continues heading west on a well-defined path. Almost immediately you'll see a trail that heads left (south) toward Daisy Geyser and the Upper Geyser Basin/Old Faithful area. Stay to the right and in another 0.3 miles you'll reach a second trail junction for the Biscuit Basin Overlook (optional route). OPTION: This optional trail to the overlook heads right and begins climbing a series of steep switchbacks until it reaches the Biscuit Basin overlook. From here you'll have an outstanding view of the Upper Geyser Basin/Old Faithful area. NOTE: Hiking to the Biscuit Basin Overlook and Mystic Falls makes for a very moderate 2.5 mile loop from the trailhead. You can continue along the ridge where you will eventually connect with the Fairy Creek Trail. See map above for details.

After passing the junction for the overlook continue heading south until you reach the Summit Lake Trail. Head right and follow the path toward Mystic Falls. The trail remains wooded through this area until you reach the Little Firehole River where the hillsides that border this small creek open up as you near Mystic Falls. At just over 1.5 miles you'll reach this beautiful, multi-tiered waterfall that drops roughly 70 feet through a narrow notch in the canyon. The trail will climb to a handful of viewpoints where you can take photos and enjoy the view of the falls.

From the falls the trail climbs steeply until you reach another trail junction at 1.7 miles. Head left and continue climbing to the highest point along the trail at 3.4 miles (8,235 ft.). Like most hikes in Yellowstone the Fairy Creek Trail passes through a mix of new and old growth forest with more than a few sections containing the remnants of dead and burned trees. The terrain remain this way as you continue the slow and gentle descent toward campsite OD3 (★★★★) situated along the banks of the Little Firehole River. Campsite OD3 is a beautiful site that has a small waterfall just behind the cooking area, and a handful of round log benches circling the fire pit. There is a hillside to the west of the cooking area where you can pitch a tent(s).

From campsite OD3 the trail follows the stream as it heads toward campsite OD2 (★★★★★) at 5.5 miles. This is another five-star campsite that borders the Little Firehole Meadows at an elevation of 7,900 ft. Water needs to be hauled from the Little Firehole River and you have the option to camp in the nearby trees or along the edge of this beautiful meadow. Three small creeks converge in this area to form the Little Firehole River which descends from the Madison Plateau to the valley where it empties into the Firehole River.

After leaving campsite OD2 the trail curves slowly to the northeast. Along this section of the trail I encountered two bison that seemed to be on a day hike of their own. Thankfully they weren't at all bothered by my presence and just kept heading south toward the Little Firehole Meadows. As I continued hiking it was clear by their footprints that they had walked all the way from the Imperial Geyser area which was at least 6 miles from where we had just met on the trail. NOTE: While this was a relatively benign encounter, wildlife can often appear from out of nowhere and for as big as these animals are it's amazing how quiet they can be when moving on the trail.

Over the next 5.5 miles there were large chunks of obsidian protruding from the ground (obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass), and once again new and old trees lined the trail, some of which resembled the poles of giant teepees that were abandoned long ago. Some of the forests along this section of the trail were untouched by fire and were carpeted with a vibrant undergrowth and the tall pines cast long, straight shadows across this blanket of green vegetation. It was a peaceful place to have lunch and admire the scenery.

At 9.5 miles you'll get your first glimpse of the Twin Buttes and the Midway Geyser Basin area just before the trail descends a dry and open hillside toward the Imperial Geyser Trail and Fairy Falls. As the trail nears the bottom of this hill there will be a noticeable side trail that takes you to Imperial Geyser. This is a very active thermal feature which has regular eruptions reaching heights of 15 to 25 feet. The waters of this small geyser are a beautiful bright blue and the ground surrounding the spring is a mix of golds and reds which gives the water an even more vibrant coloration. Following the small stream that exits the geyser to the east, you'll pass Spray Geyser and reconnect with the main trail.

After leaving the Imperil Geyser area the trail continues east where it intersects with the Imperial Geyser Trail. Head to the right and follow the path through new growth toward the rugged cliffs and Fairy Falls (Fairy Falls Trail). This is a delicate waterfall of 200 ft. that descends in a series of feathery strands to its base. This is a popular destination for day hikers who usually begin at the Fairy Falls Trailhead and hike the 5 miles round-trip to the falls.

When you leave Fairy Falls the trail become much wider, traveling through new growth before reaching campsite OD1 (★) at 12.6 miles. This site is completely surrounded by dense trees and doesn't offer much in the way of views but if you are looking to spend a night in the backcountry and prefer a short hike, this site is only 1.7 miles (one-way) from the Fairy Falls Trailhead.

Continuing east from campsite OD1 the trail reaches the junction with Fountain Freight Road at 13.3 miles. This very flat gravel road runs north and south between the Fairy Falls Trailhead and the Fountain Flats Drive Trailhead (3.7 miles). The road is open to hikers and bicyclists and campsite OD5 located on Goose Lake is reservable by special-needs individuals or bicycle parties only, with a one-night limit.

From the junction with Fountain Freight Road the trail turns south and skirts the western edge of the Midway Geyser Basin area and the spectacular Grand Prismatic Spring. From the trail this massive hot spring is rather inconspicuous but if you climb the hillside to the west on one of the unmaintained trails you'll get one of the best views of the largest and most colorful hot spring in Yellowstone. The Grand Prismatic Spring is 370 feet in diameter and more than 121 feet deep. The view of Grand Prismatic Spring is reason enough to hike the trail and this picture perfect location is easily reached from the Fairy Falls Trailhead in just under a mile.

Fountain Freight Road will take you a short distance (1.0 mile) to the Fairy Falls Trailhead where you'll exit the parking lot, cross the highway to a connector trail, and head south paralleling the Grand Loop Road. The last 2.5 miles of the trail are mostly wooded as you follow the Powerline Trail back to the Biscuit Basin Trailhead. As the name implies the trail here is often situated next to, or underneath the Trans Line which makes it feel a little less like wilderness but it makes for a convenient way to loop back to the Biscuit Basin Trailhead and the start/finish point for this hike.

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
Lone Star (Trailhead OK1) - A very popular hike to Lone Star Geyser (Open to mountain biking and cross country skiing for the first 2.7 miles).
Howard Eaton (Trailhead OK2) - Provides access to Shoshone Lake and the Bechler River Trail.
Fairy Falls (Trailhead OK5) - A popular hike to Fairy Falls via Fountain Flat Drive (mountain biking is allowed on Fountain Freight Road).
Sentinel Meadows (Trailhead OK6) - A beautiful loop through Sentinel Meadows and the Lower Geyser Basin area.
Mary Mountain (Trailhead OK7) - A long day hike along the Nez Perce Trail to Mary Lake (trail opens June 15th).
Mallard Creek (Trailhead OK9) - An easy day hike or overnight destination from the Old Faithful area.

Nearby Campgrounds
Madison Campground - Madison Campground is located approximately 14 miles north of the Biscuit Basin Trailhead and has 278 sites with a section for 'tents only'. Campsites are $24.25 + per night. Electrical hookups are available. Campground has flush toilets. Reservations are accepted. Click here to make online reservations or call: 1-866-439-7375. Generators are permitted from 8am - 8pm. An ice and vending machine, recycling and a dump station are located at this campground - Get Directions from the Biscuit Basin Trailhead to the Madison Campground.

Grant Village - Grant Village Campground is located approximately 21.3 miles southeast of the Biscuit Basin Trailhead 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 Biscuit Basin Trailhead to Grant Village.

Yellowstone National Park Backcountry Permits
All overnight backcountry permits for the northwest section of Yellowstone National Park can be obtained at the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center on the corner of Yellowstone Ave. and S. Canyon St./route 191 in West Yellowstone (307) 344-2876 or at the Old Faithful Ranger Station. Read more about obtaining Yellowstone Backcountry Permits.

Post Hike Meals
Don't forget to stop in at one of the following restaurants if you're staying in West Yellowstone.

Wolf Pack Brewing Co located at 139 North Canyon Street in West Yellowstone - Directions
Wild West Pizzeria at 14 Madison Avenue in West Yellowstone - Directions

Maps for Hiking Fairy Creek
Beartooth Publishing Outdoor Recreational Maps
These maps from Beartooth Publishing will cover all of Yellowstone National Park as well as Bozeman/Big Sky/Gallatin Range/Madison Range and West Yellowstone.
For more information regarding these maps click here.

Directions to Fairy Creek Trailhead

Click the Map to Launch Directions
From Old Faithful to the
Biscuit Basin Trailhead.


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