Hiking the Slough Creek Trail
Slough Creek Trail, Yellowstone National Park
Hike #11, Slough Creek Trail
Slough Creek Trailhead 2K5
Northeast Section - Very Popular
Yellowstone National Park

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Location: Northeast Section (See map to the right)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate - Out-and-back or overnighter
Distance: 14 mi/22.5 km round-trip
Elevation Gain: 400 ft.
Best time to visit: June-October (Buggy in late June and July)

Backcountry Camping: Yes. 7 sites - 2S1, 2S2, 2S3, 2S4, 2S6, 2S7 & 2S8
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 - Slough Creek (2K5)
From Mammoth Hot Springs:
Drive approximately 25.8 miles east on route 212 towards the town of Cooke City, MT. The trailhead is located 1.8 off the NE Entrance Road. Follow the dirt road towards the Slough Creek Campground. The trailhead will be on the right. 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.

Slough Creek Trailhead Location

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Slough Creek Overview Map
Slough Creek Trail Stats

Trail Details
Trail Condition: Excellent - Well travelled
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Total Mileage: 14 mi /22.5 km
Type of Hike: Out-and-back or overnighter
Wow Factor: Open meadows, great fishing
Elevation Gain: 400 ft.

Nearest Towns: Mammoth & Cooke City, MT
25.8 miles east of Mammoth Hot Springs - Directions
28 miles west of Cooke City, MT - Directions
Trailhead Coordinates
Latitude: 44.943577
Longitude: -110.308260

Turnaround Coordinates
Latitude: 44.990344
Longitude: -110.200054

Approx. Elevations
Trailhead Elevation = 6,279 ft.
Turnaround Elevation = 6,617 ft.
Elevation Gain = 400 ft.
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Yellowstone Backcountry Info

Slough Creek Photo Gallery
Slough Creek Trail Description

Slough Creek Trail Description (Trailhead 2K5) Very Popular

The immense open landscapes of Slough Creek are what make this hike so remarkable. Endless meadows surrounded by lush forests and the towering peaks of Sugarloaf and Cutoff mountains provide an unforgettable backdrop to one of the best hiking destinations in Yellowstone.

From the trailhead the hike enters a wooded area and begins climbing a short, steep grade to the height of the land at .7 miles. For the first few miles the trail is a dirt road and over much of the hike it's a well defined double track. The Silvertip Ranch, which operates just outside the park's northern boundary, is a private guest ranch that is permitted to shuttle its lodgers to and from the ranch via horse-drawn wagons and this is why the Slough Creek Trail is well defined and easy to travel. If you should encounter pack horses or a wagon remember to yield the right of way and step to the downhill side of the trail if possible. This area has plenty of wild flowers during the summer with arrowleaf balsamroot being the predominate species.

After the initial climb the trail drops down into the first meadow where it meets the Buffalo Fork Trail at 1.7 miles. You'll need to ford Slough Creek here if you plan to hike this side trail. From this low vantage point you'll get your first glimpse of Slough Creek as it meanders through this beautiful meadow. Fishing along this stretch of Slough Creek requires a great deal of skill and patience because the water moves at a snails pace and the fish have the upper hand. Just past the Buffalo Fork Trail there is another very short hill and then the landscape opens as the trail passes the Slough Creek Patrol Cabin at 1.8 miles. There is a rocky outcropping in the middle of this first meadow which offers great views of the surrounding area from its tiny summit. Buffalo and grizzly bears are often present along this hike.

After leaving the first meadow the trail climbs an easy grade to the highest point of the hike (6,745 ft) at a distance of 3 miles. Here the trail skirts the eastern edge of a dense forest with most views being off to the west and north. For the next 1.5 miles Slough Creek is often hidden from view but is easily accessible if you're looking to fish a little ways off the beaten path (don't forget to pack the bear spray). At 4.3 miles you'll reach the spur trail for campsite 2S1 (★★★★★) which sits at the southern edge of the massive second meadow. The campsite is actually located another .6 miles from the main trail and is one of the prettiest sites along this route. On this hike we stayed at this campsite. NOTE: All of the campsites along the Slough Creek trail are limited to 3 nights between June 15th and Sept 15th. Click here to view the backcountry campsites located is this area.

After the spur trail with campsite 2S1 the landscape opens and the jagged peaks of Sugarloaf and Cuttoff mountains now dominate the views to the north. At 4.8 miles the trail crosses Hornaday Creek just past campsite 2S2 (★★★). This is the only stream crossing along the route and it's usually easy to find a place to jump across if you walk down stream. During the spring it may be fast flowing and harder to negotiate without walking through the creek. Luckily it's not very wide or very deep.

Continuing on the trail rolls gently downhill past campsite 2S3 (★★★★) which is .1 mile from the main trail. This backcountry site is tucked up against a dense pine forest that gradually descends to meet a huge valley on its eastern slopes. If you plan to fish while staying at 2S3 it's about .4 miles across very flat ground to Slough Creek.

The final mile to the junction with Bliss Pass is mostly wide open and Slough Creek is easily visible on your left. On the northwestern side of this valley is Anderson Ridge which runs north into the adjacent Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness. Campsite 2S4 (★★★★) is another beautiful place to spend a few days and makes for a great base camp for fishing or additional day hikes in the area. Campsites 2S7 (stock parties only) and 2S8 are situated on the opposite side of Slough Creek and to reach these sites you'll need to ford Slough Creek in front of the Elk Tongue Cabin.

Optional Extended Overnighter (Requires a shuttle)
For a really incredible 2 or 3 day extended backpacking trip start from the Slough Creek Trailhead and spend the first night at campsite 2S4. This site is 7.1 miles from the trailhead and is situated just before the junction with the Bliss Pass trail and the Elk Tongue Patrol Cabin. The campsite is close to Slough Creek and provides excellent opportunities to fish right from camp. On the second day continue hiking over Bliss Pass which tops out at 9,422 ft. before dropping steeply to Pebble Creek. The hike over Bliss pass is a long and steady climb of nearly 6 miles with an elevation gain of 2,800 feet. From the pass you'll have a birds-eye view of upper Slough Creek and the mountains that surround the Pebble Creek valley before the trail descends steeply to the junction with the Pebble Creek Trail. From here you can camp at sites 3P2 or 3P3 which are located near the trail junction, or head further north to campsites 3P4 (★★★★★) or 3P5 (★★★) which are another 2.0 and 3.0 miles respectively. If you stay at these campsites along Pebble Creek you'll have an easy hike (max 5.3 miles) to the Warm Creek Trailhead (3K4) which is located near the northeast entrance. From here you will need a shuttle back to the Slough Creek Trailhead which is 23 miles away.

Additional Information
The Slough Creek trailhead is located 25.8 miles from Mammoth Hot Springs between Tower Junction and the Lamar Valley on the Northeast Entrance Road. Click here for directions. Follow the dirt road for 2 miles towards the Slough Creek campground and the trailhead will be on the right. The campground is open from June 24th to October 31st and is within walking distance of the Slough Creek Trailhead. Because of its popularity the Slough Creek campground fills quickly during the summer months and is first-come, first-served so arrive early if you're looking for a place to camp. During the spring and early summer make sure you carry plenty of insect repellent on this hike. The first meadow is generally very wet and is prone to flooding during the spring runoff which means the mosquitos can thrive here in great numbers.

The Slough Creek Trail is a very popular destination with day hikers, fishermen, and backpackers and has some of the best scenery and fly fishing in the park. The elevation gain is minimal (400 ft) so access is very easy and the views get better and better the further you travel. This trip covers the first 7.1 miles one way to the Bliss Pass Trail and the Elk Tongue Patrol Cabin. You may decide to continue on towards the park's northern boundary which is only another 3.2 miles beyond the Bliss Pass junction. The scenery back here is just incredible.

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
Specimen Ridge (Trailhead 2K4) - A long open ridge that tops out on Amethyst Mountain (9,614 ft.).
Soda Butte (Trailhead 3K1) - Walk through the north end of the famed Lamar Valley. Connects with the Lamar River and Cache Creek Trails.
Trout Lake (Trailhead - Trout Lake) - A very easy and popular hike to a lake filled with, you guessed it, trout.
Thunderer (Trailhead 3K3) - Climbs to Chaw Pass and connects with the Cache Creek Trail. Provides access to The Thunderer peak.
Pebble Creek Trail/ Warm Creek Trailhead 3K4 - A real hidden gem. Connects with Slough Creek via Bliss Pass. Highly recommended.

Nearby Campgrounds
Slough Creek Campground - Slough Creek Campground is located within walking distance of the Slough Creek Trailhead and has 23 primitive sites and vault toilets. Campsites are $15.00 per night. Reservations are not accepted. Generators are not permitted. Located 2 miles off the NE Entrance Road.

Tower Fall Campground - Tower Fall Campground is located approximately 10 miles west of the Slough Creek 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 - Get Directions from the Slough Creek Trailhead to the Tower Fall Campground.

Pebble Creek Campground - Pebble Creek Campground is located approximately 15 miles east of Slough Creek Trailhead on the NE Entrance Road and has 27 primitive sites and vault toilets. Campsites are $15.00 per night. Reservations are not accepted. Generators are not permitted - Get Directions from the Slough Creek Trailhead to the Pebble Creek 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 Slough Creek
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 Slough Creek Trailhead

Click the Map to Launch Directions
From Mammoth to the Slough Creek Trailhead.


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