Hiking the Fan Creek Trail, Yellowstone
Fan Creek Trail, Yellowstone National Park
Hike #6, Fan Creek via the Fawn Pass Trail
Fawn Pass Trailhead WK5
Northwest Section - Minimal Traffic
Yellowstone National Park

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Location: Northwest Section (See map to the right)
Difficulty: Easy - Out-and-back, point-2-point or overnighter
Distance: 12.8 mi/20 km round-trip to campsite WC4
Elevation Gain: 715 ft.
Best time to visit: Late June-November

Backcountry Camping: Yes. 3 sites - WC2 (WC3 & WC4 are Stock Only Sites)
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

This hike has multiple stream crossings. Carrying a pair of sandals is highly recommended.

Finding the Trailhead - Fawn Pass (WK5)
From West Yellowstone:
From the center of town drive north on routes 191 & 287 toward Big Sky and Bozeman for approximately 21.9 miles. The parking lot is on the right 1.5 miles past the Bighorn Pass Trailhead. Get Directions from West Yellowstone

From Bozeman: Drive 66 miles south on route US 191 towards the towns of Big Sky and West Yellowstone. The large parking for the trailhead will be on the left 4.6 miles past the Specimen Creek Trailhead. Get Directions from Bozeman

Backcountry permits can be obtained in West Yellowstone at the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center - (307) 344-2876.

Read more about obtaining Yellowstone Backcountry Permits.

Fawn Pass/ Fan Creek Trailhead Location

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Fan Creek Overview Map
Fan Creek Trail Stats

Trail Details
Trail Condition: Excellent - multiple stream crossings
Difficulty: Easy
Total Mileage: 12.8 mi /20 km round-trip
Type of Hike: Out-and-back, point-2-point or overnighter
Wow Factor: A beautiful and secluded valley
Elevation Gain/Loss: 715 ft.

Nearest Towns: West Yellowstone, Big Sky & Bozeman
21.9 miles north of West Yellowstone, MT - Get Directions
29 miles south of Big Sky, MT - Get Directions
66 miles south of Bozeman, MT - Get Directions

Trailhead Coordinates
Latitude: 44.950320
Longitude: -111.059428

Site WC4 Coordinates
Latitude: 44.993022
Longitude: -110.966994

Approx. Elevations
Trailhead Elevation = 7,136 ft.
Site WC4 Elevation = 7,558 ft.
Elevation Gain/Loss = 715 ft.
FREE Trip Planner
Yellowstone Backcountry Info

Fan Creek Photo Gallery
Fan Creek Trail Description

Fan Creek Trail Description (Trailhead WK5) - Light Traffic

Fan Creek is a popular destination for outfitters traveling deep into the Gallatin Range. The Fan Creek Trail follows the crystal clear waters of this meandering stream as it snakes its way through a small secluded valley on the western edge of Yellowstone National Park.

From the Fawn Pass parking lot the trail heads directly east, crossing the Gallatin River on four stout footbridges. This low lying area is filled with tall grasses and willows that border the Gallatin River which get its start high in the Gallatin Range just south of Bighorn Pass. After crossing this open and lush terrain by the river the trail enters the woods to the east where sagebrush, tall pines and wildflowers line the trail. Elk, moose and grizzly bears are common in this area so be on the lookout for all three.

At 0.8 miles the Bacon Rind Trail enters from the left. This trail parallels the Fawn Pass Trail and is used by stock parties visiting the area. At mile 1.3 you reach the junction with the Fan Creek Trail and head left (northeast). The landscape becomes much more open and before long you get your first glimpse of this winding meadow stream as it flows in a series of braided channels through this open terrain. As you cross the eastern edge of this valley you'll reach the first stream crossing along the trail (easy). This small feeder stream is just wide enough to require a ford but it's definitely easy to cross.

The trail now begins heading in a northerly direction, climbing briefly before reaching the junction for campsite WC2 (★★★★★). At one time the main trail followed this route past the campsite, crossing Fan Creek just north of the backcountry campsite, but the main trail has since been rerouted. Site WC2 is situated in a stand of coniferous trees to the east of the valley and it's a short walk to Fan Creek. This tributary of the Gallatin River is said to contain a hardy population of rainbows, cutthroats and the occasional brown trout. All of the campsites in the region offer easy access to Fan Creek if you plan to fish.

From the junction with site WC2 the trail heads left (north) before reaching the widest ford along Fan Creek at 2.85 miles. In late June the stream is about knee deep at this location but it's still very manageable. Like many of the streams in Yellowstone the icy waters of Fan Creek will numb your feet before you reach the opposite bank. Sandals or water shoes are highly recommended when hiking this trail. Once you reach the north side of Fan Creek you'll climb the opposite bank where you are treated to a wonderful view of this long and narrow valley as it points you toward the peaks of the Gallatin Range. The trail now follows the contours of the nearby hillside where the views extend to the north along the valley. From this high vantage point you can look directly across at campsite WC2 as the creek makes a series of tight turns just in front of the campsite.

The scenery is very similar for much of the trail with great views of the valley as you hike through stands of burned and unburned forest. At 5.0 miles the valley begins to narrow as you reach the second campsite along the trail, campsite WC3 (stock only). This is another five star site that is set back 0.1 miles from the main trail. The site is located on the edge of another valley that runs further to the north. A smaller tributary of Fan Creek runs behind the campsite and provides easy access to water. Tents can be pitched in the trees or in the meadow behind the cooking area.

Just past the junction with campsite WC3 (★★★★★) a small stream requires another ford but again it's not very wide or very deep. The trail continues moving in a northeast direction as Fan Creek twists and turns through the valley. At mile 6.0 there is a grand view east where both the North and East Forks of Fan Creek converge. A nearby ridge shows the scars of a forest fire, the toppled tree trunks gray against the low hillside.

Descending into the north end of this valley brings you to the final campsite along the trail WC4 (stock only). Again, this is another stellar campsite and a pristine location deep in the Yellowstone wilderness. From this campsite you can continue on to either Sportsman Lake or High Lake by following the Fan Creek Trail further north.

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.

Trail Map

Nearby Hiking Trails
Daly Creek (Trailhead WK1) - Provides access to the north end of the beautiful and rugged Sky Rim Trail.
Black Butte (Trailhead WK2) - Climbs to the jagged summit of Bighorn Peak and connects with the Sky Rim Trail.
Specimen Creek (Trailhead WK3) - Provides a direct route to Shelf Lake. Access to Crescent/High Lake and the Sportsman Lake Trails.
Bacon Rind (Trailhead WK4) - This trail exits the park to the west and climbs to the Skyline Trail in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness.
Fawn Pass - West End (Trailhead WK5) - A long but rewarding day hike into the heart of the Gallatin Bear Management Area (BMA).
Bighorn Pass (Trailhead WK6) - Another beautiful mountain pass located high in the Gallatin Mountains.
Gneiss Creek (Trailhead WK7) - A quiet stretch of trail that is as flat as it is long. Wildflowers are plentiful here.

Nearby Campgrounds
Bakers Hole - May to Sept. - Bakers Hole Campground is located 3 miles north of West Yellowstone and has 73 sites and vault toilets. Electrical hookups are available for 33 sites. Campsites are $16.00 + per night. Reservations are not accepted - Get Directions from the Fawn Pass Trailhead to the Bakers Hole Campground.

Taylor Fork Road - Open All Year - Taylor Fork Road is approximately 11.9 miles north of the Bighorn Pass Trailhead on US 191. Campsites are free. The first few sites are located about a mile from US 191. Forest service road (FSR 134) follows Taylor Creek west and extends deep into the Madison Range/Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area, and provides access to numerous hiking and mountain biking opportunities within the Gallatin National Forest - Get Directions from the Fawn Pass Trailhead to the Taylor Fork Primitive Camping Area.

Red Cliff Campground - May to Sept. - Red Cliff Campground is approximately 19.6 miles north of the Bighorn Pass Trailhead on US 191 and has 67 sites and vault toilets. Electric hookups are available for 26 sites. Campsites are $15.00 per night. Located along the Gallatin River between Big Sky and the northern boundary of the National Park. Bozeman Ranger District/Gallatin National Forest - (406) 587-9054 - Get Directions from the Fawn Pass Trailhead to the Red Cliff Campground.

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. Read more about obtaining Yellowstone Backcountry Permits.

Post Hike Meals
Don't forget to stop in at one of the following restaurants on your way back to West Yellowstone or Bozeman.

If you're heading back to West Yellowstone try one of these local restaurants.
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

The Corral located on route 191 - Burgers & Beers - Directions
The Wrap Shack in Big Sky - Fresh, healthy and affordable food. Directions
Choppers Grub & Pub in the Big Sky Town Center - Directions

Maps for Hiking Fan 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 Fan Creek Trailhead

Click the Map to Launch Directions
From West Yellowstone to the Fawn Pass Trailhead.


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