Staying in Gardiner, Montana, means you have the easiest access to Yellowstone National Park while still enjoying plenty of services, dining, and lodging options. And that puts your trailhead commute time to almost nothing when you're ready to get in some miles. Here are three of the best hikes you can easily enjoy inside the park from a home base in Gardiner.
This is the stroll that gives you the classic view of the stepped travertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs. You could spend ten minutes speed walking the boardwalk to get the highlights or pass an hour or longer meandering the whole length of this 3-mile trail system, stopping to take in all the sights (and smells) of the thermal features.
This is the perfect choice for beginner hikers, since you're never more than shouting distance from the parking lot. Rangers are typically easy to find, and there are usually other people around on this popular route. You'll still want to bring water, a camera, and sun protection with you, though.
This 4.2-mile through hike gives you the option of an out-and-back for a longer trek, or you can arrange a shuttle to start and end at different trailheads. The Lava Creek trail goes from the Lava Creek picnic area to Mammoth Campground or vice versa, passing by highlights like Undine Falls and following the Yellowstone River. You should expect to spend two to three hours each direction on the route.
Whenever you're out hiking, be sure to pack the ten essentials. For this hike, you'll want to sport sturdy shoes and bring a camera and extra water, too.
Hey, 3,400 feet of elevation gain is nothing to scoff at, and neither are the views atop Sepulcher Mountain. This 11-mile loop trail is best from June through October when the snow has usually melted. Start out at Glen Creek Trailhead, which will take you to Sportsman Lake Trail and finally connect you with Sepulcher Mountain Trail.
You definitely want to come ready for a workout, and don't be surprised if you spot wildlife along the way. Even though this trail is located quite close to Mammoth Hot Springs—a notoriously busy area of the park in summer—the crowds don't find their way up the mountain. You're likely to find yourself hiking in peace and serenity, sharing the trail with only a few other people.
Keep in mind that this is a challenging hike, recommended for experienced hikers. Be sure you know the conditions before you go, someone knows where you've gone (you can always stop in at a visitor center to let the rangers know ahead of time that you're heading out), and that you're adequately prepared for the hike.
You'll want to be sure to have your ten essentials, bear spray, good sturdy shoes—preferably with ankle support—and plenty of extra water for the exposed trail, especially when hiking under the bright summer sun. You'll also want to have a map, since many other trails intersect with this one. Don't forget to snap some shots at the summit as you take in the views.