Hiking the Fawn Pass Trail, Yellowstone
Fawn Pass Trail, Yellowstone National Park
Hike #7, Fawn Pass Trail - West Side
Fawn Pass Trailhead WK5
Northwest Section - Minimal Traffic
Yellowstone National Park

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Location: Northwest Section (See map to the right)
Difficulty: Difficult - Out-and-back or point-2-point
Distance: 18 mi/28.9 km round-trip
Elevation Gain: 2,000 ft.
Best time to visit: July-October (Fawn Pass may be snow-covered until mid-July)

Backcountry Camping: No

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

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 Trailhead Location

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Fawn Pass Overview Map
Fawn Pass Trail Stats

Trail Details
Trail Condition: Excellent
Difficulty: Difficult
Total Mileage: 18 mi /28.9 km round-trip
Type of Hike: Out-and-back or point-2-point
Wow Factor: A remote mountain pass with incredible views
Elevation Gain/Loss: 2,000 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

Fawn Pass Coordinates
Latitude: 44.929215
Longitude: -110.905395

Approx. Elevations
Trailhead Elevation = 7,136 ft.
Fawn Pass Elevation = 9,120 ft.
Elevation Gain/Loss = 2,000 ft.
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Yellowstone Backcountry Info

Fawn Pass Photo Gallery
Fawn Pass Trail Description

Fawn Pass Trail Description - West Side - (Trailhead WK5) - Light Traffic

Fawn Pass lies at just over 9,000 feet elevation in the midst of the Gallatin Range. This long but rewarding hike climbs 2,000 feet through the Gallatin Bear Management Area so you might get lucky and glimpse a grizzly roaming the hillsides. As you gain elevation you'll enjoy views of a narrow valley stretching to the western horizon and the towering peaks of the Gallatins against blue Wyoming skies.

The trip to Fawn Pass is an all-day hike so you'll need to get an early start to finish at a reasonable time (allow between 8-9 hours). This means you'll probably have the trail all to yourself—we didn't see another person the entire day. As we began the hike the temperatures were in the low 30's even though it was late June. The grass was wet with dew and hung over the trail making for wet boots. In the shade temperatures were still very cold and the wildflowers had a thick coat of frost on their delicate petals. The cool air was invigorating though and the first mile went by very quickly.

At 0.8 miles the Bacon Rind Trail enters from the left and a wooden sign indicates this trail is best for stock use. Outfitters are required to bypass the first section of the Fawn Pass Trail and signs posted at the trailhead direct them around the four small wooden bridges that cross the wetlands near the starting point. Continuing past the Bacon Rind Trail you reach the Fan Creek Trail junction at 1.3 miles. This trail heads to the left (north) into a big valley filled with sage and willows (see the Fan Creek Trail description for details).

The cold morning air meant the mosquitoes would stay hidden until the temperatures grew a little warmer so it was easy to take pictures of the wildflowers growing beside the trail. Larkspur, sugarbowl, yarrow and many-flowered phlox were the most common plant species found throughout this area. As temperatures began to rise however the first hum of a mosquito buzzed past and before long it was time to break out the bug spray. Morning temperatures in the park are often very cool and it was easy to forget about the insects but if you forget to pack the bug spray you'll regret it later. Mosquitoes and biting flies can turn up in incredible numbers and they will drive you absolutely mad if you are unprotected.

At mile 3.5 miles the trail leaves the forest and remains in the open as you begin climbing toward the Fawn Pass Cutoff Trail at 5.0 miles. This short trail connects the Bighorn Pass and Fawn Pass Trails in 0.8 miles. Monument plants cover the ground in this wide valley and to the north you can see Bighorn Peak and Meldrum Mountain which are just visible on the horizon. A myriad of wildflowers cover the ground and it seems nearly impossible to keep track of them all.

From the Fawn Pass Cutoff Trail (mile 5) you begin gaining elevation as the trail swings north through an old burn. Here you'll get your first view of the Bighorn Pass Trail as it bends eastward toward the high peaks of the Gallatin Range. The barren slopes of Crowfoot Ridge rise to the southeast as you continue to gain elevation. At mile 5.6 a small pond appears to the right and as we passed by a family of common goldeneyes huddled together in the shallow water. For the next mile the trail hugs a steep hillside swinging left and right as it follows the topography of the land. Small streams descend from the steep hillsides and in many places the trail becomes a bit muddy for the next mile. At 6.4 miles another stagnant pond appears to the left and for a brief moment the mosquitoes reappear to remind you that you're never completely free of their annoying presence.

After a series of short switchbacks at mile 6.6 the trail begins heading southeast through intermittent pine forests and high meadows filled with large clusters of mountain bluebells. Crowfoot Ridge is easily visible to the southeast and the lower portion of the Bighorn Pass Trail spreads out to the west. If you look closely you can see the Gallatin River as it carves a serpentine path through the valley below (see the Bighorn Pass Trail description for details).

Within a mile of Fawn Pass we spotted a dark silhouette against the green hills that flank the trail. As we moved a bit closer it was easy to see the powerful shape of a lone grizzly foraging for food in the open hillsides just to the right of the trail. He was a safe distance away but a grizzly bear can run at speeds of up to 30 mph so we cautiously moved on hoping to go unnoticed. To observe an animal in the wild is a very rewarding experience and this was no exception. On the return trip the grizzly had vanished into this immense wilderness but we remained wary as we descended the trail.

As you reach the top of Fawn Pass a small metal sign to the left of the trail indicates the elevation, 9,120 ft. If you continue walking a short distance to the east a small lake surrounded by a large meadow provides a nice spot to have lunch before heading back to the trailhead. Gray Peak towers over this remote setting that is located in the heart of the Gallatin Range and it was nice to visit a place where grizzly bears are more common than people.

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.
Fan Creek (Trailhead WK5) - A narrow and secluded valley that connects with the Sportsman Lake Trail.
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 Fawn Pass
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 Fawn Pass Trailhead

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


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