Hiking the Gneiss Creek Trail
Gneiss Creek Trail, Yellowstone National Park
Hike #9, Gneiss Creek Trail
Gneiss Creek Trailhead WK7
Northwest Section
Yellowstone National Park

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Trailhead Location: Northwest Section (See map to the right)
Difficulty: Easy - Out-and-back, point-2-point or overnighter
Distance: 13.9 mi/22.3 km as a point-2-point
Elevation Gain: Minimal

Backcountry Camping: Yes. 1 site - WA1
Click here to view a list of backcountry campsites for this area.

NOTE: Area closed until July 1st for bear management purposes.

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

Finding the Trailhead - Gneiss Creek (WK7)
From West Yellowstone:
From the center of town drive north on routes 191 & 287 towards Bozeman for approximately 9.7 miles. The trailhead is on the right about a mile past the Hebgen Lake junction (route 287). Look for the Fir Ridge Cemetery. This hike begins just outside the National Park. Get Directions from West Yellowstone

From Bozeman: Drive 78.5 miles south on route 191. You will actually enter and then exit Yellowstone National Park. The trailhead will be on the left after a very sharp 's' curve. If you hit US 287 you've gone to far. Look for the Fir Ridge Cemetery which shares the same parking lot. Get Directions from Bozeman

NOTE - This trail is closed until June 30th for bear management purposes.
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.

Gneiss Creek Trailhead Location

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Gneiss Creek Overview Map
Gneiss Creek Trail Stats

Trail Details
Trail Condition: Fair - Requires some route-finding skills
Difficulty: Easy
Total Mileage: 13.9 mi /22.3 km as a point-2-point
Type of Hike: Out-and-back, point-2-point or overnighter
Wow Factor: Flat, open terrain with plenty of wildflowers
Elevation Gain:Minimal

Nearest Towns: West Yellowstone, Big Sky & Bozeman
9.7 miles north of West Yellowstone, MT - Get Directions
41.3 miles south of Big Sky, MT - Get Directions
78.5 miles south of Bozeman, MT - Get Directions

Trailhead Coordinates
Latitude: 44.795785
Longitude: -111.104833

End Coordinates (WK8)
Latitude: 44.663758
Longitude: -110.964848

Approx. Elevations
Start Elevation = 6,800 ft.
Finish Elevation = 6,760 ft.
Elevation Gain/Loss = Imperceptible
FREE Trip Planner
Yellowstone Backcountry Info

Gneiss Creek Photo Gallery
Gneiss Creek Trail Description

Gneiss Creek Trail Description (Trailhead WK7) - Very Light Traffic

“I will be the gladdest thing under the sun! I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.” ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay ~ Bring along a good guidebook for identifying wildflowers because this hike has plenty of varieties.

This hike is located in the Gneiss Creek Bear Management Area (BMA) and is closed until June 30th for that very reason. This hike also requires good route finding skills and has multiple stream crossings.

The Gneiss Creek Trailhead (WK7) is located along route US 191 about 9.4 miles from the town of West Yellowstone. The hike was completed as a point-2-point (shuttle) from US 191 at the western edge of the park. The trail travels in a southeast direction for 13.9 miles to the trailhead at Seven Mile Bridge (WK8) just inside the west entrance of the park. There are 4 stream crossings (beginning at mile 7) so carry sandals if you plan to hike the entire length of this trail. In a few locations you’ll need to utilize some basic route finding skills but overall the navigation is very straightforward. The terrain is flat and open which is ideal for wildlife viewing.

Getting Started: From the parking lot the hike begins in the shade of beautiful aspen trees before reaching the Park boundary at .3 miles. During the spring this area is filled with wildflowers. To the west you’ll have a view of the Henrys Lake Mountains and Hebgen Lake. At 1 mile the terrain opens with a view of Sandy Butte to the right. Here the trail descends to Campanula Creek at 2 miles. There is a small footbridge across Campanula Creek. On the opposite bank the trail turns right and climbs a small hillside where it will traverse the northern edge of the Madison Valley. The landscape here is very flat and is covered with sagebrush and wildflowers. At 4.3 miles you’ll reach the only backcountry campsite WA1 along the Gneiss Creek Trail. Campsite rating = (★★★★★). Stock parties allowed. Capacity 10 backpackers, 20 for stock parties.

At 5 miles the trail will enter a somewhat marshy area and a little route-finding will be necessary here. Be on the lookout for the orange trail markers and stay near the low hillside on your left until you reach a large dead tree on the edge of this wetland. Begin crossing at this spot. Trail markers are easier to follow here. After reaching the opposite side of this wetland the trail dries out and gentle, rolling terrain will lead you to the first stream crossing at 7 miles. Ford Maple Creek just upstream from where the main trail crosses. This is thigh deep and can be very cold. Sandals are a must for this hike.

Continuing past Maple Creek the trail remains level through large open meadows and sections of new growth pine. In these young forests the trail is narrow and visibility is limited so be sure to make noise to alert any wildlife to your presence. At 10 miles you’ll cross Cougar Creek (ankle deep) and then shortly after another water crossing will be necessary. This section is created by a lesser tributary of Cougar Creek and seems to be a permanent feature and is not caused by temporary flooding. Wade through this knee deep pool and continue south.

At 12 miles the trail will swing left where it becomes hard to follow once again. If you follow the treeline on the right it will bring you to the junction with the Cougar Cabin trail at 12.5 miles. Keep going and you’ll begin to hear traffic along the west entrance road. The trail meets the Madison River at 13.4 miles and finishes through intermittent pines along the north side of the river. You can start this hike from the southern trailhead (WK8) located at Seven Mile Bridge.

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
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 secluded valley that connects with the Sportsman Lake Trail.
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.

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 Gneiss Creek Trailhead to the Bakers Hole Campground.

Taylor Fork Road - Open All Year - Taylor Fork Road is approximately 24 miles north of the Gneiss Creek Trailhead on route 191. Campsites are free. There are no facilities. The first few campsites are located about a mile from route 191. This 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 Gneiss Creek Trailhead to the Taylor Fork Primitive Area Campsites.

Red Cliff Campground - May to Sept. - Red Cliff Campground is located approximately 32 miles north of the Gneiss Creek Trailhead on route 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 Gneiss Creek 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 Gneiss 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 Gneiss Creek Trailhead

Click the Map to Launch Directions
From West Yellowstone to the Gneiss Creek Trailhead.


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