Yellowstone National Park: Beaver Ponds Loop

Hike past expansive beaver ponds and prime elk habitat on this loop through Yellowstone’s scenic northwest corner.
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Hike past expansive beaver ponds and prime elk habitat on this loop through Yellowstone’s scenic northwest corner.

These impressive pieces of wildlife engineering constitute a worthy dayhiking destination near Mammoth Hot Springs. BY PAUL CHISHOLM

The sprawling development at Mammoth Hot Springs can be intimidating for many Yellowstone visitors. A post office, a court, several administrative offices, a hotel, and a busy restaurant make many visitors feel like they’ve been dropped into the middle of a metropolis. Luckily, this 5.7 mile loop to a pair of beaver ponds provides a quick escape from the hordes. The trail is a great sampling of the Mammoth area’s main attractions—active geologic formations, great wildlife habitat, gorgeous views of the Gallatin Range—minus the crowds.

Trip stats:
Distance: 5.7 miles
Elevation gain: 650 feet
Time: 3 hours

To the trailhead:
From Gardiner, MT, head south on Highway 89 for 6 miles to the facilities at Mammoth. Find parking wherever you can, and make your way to the signed Beaver Ponds trailhead just north of the terraces.

Turn by turn:
1) From the trailhead north of the terraces, follow signage for the Beaver Ponds Trail and head west up Clematis Creek.
2) At 0.2 miles there is a junction with an unsigned (in summer) ski trail; stay on the main trail (hiker’s right).
3) Switchback up the hillside for 0.6 miles to the junction with the Sepulcher Mountain trail at mile 0.8; stay to the right.
4) Cross a dirt service road at mile 1.6; continue straight (north) on the singletrack hiking trail.
5) The trail ducks in and out of pine timberland for 1.5 miles before hitting the main beaver pond at mile 3.1.
6) Continue on the trail, passing through wide-open sagebrush steppe, until you arrive back at Mammoth at mile 5.3.
7) Navigate through Mammoth to get back to your car.

Season:
March-October

Red tape:
Park entrance fee ($25) is required. There are no backcountry campsites along this route and dogs are not allowed.

Contact:
Yellowstone National Park Albright Visitor Center, (307)-344-2263

Trail Facts

  • State: WY
  • City: Billings
  • Distance: 0.0
  • Contact: Yellowstone National Park Albright Visitor Center, http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/dhsampler.htm#mdayhike, (307)-344-2263
  • Land Type: National Park