Buffalo Fork Trail
ElevationAscent: 3,566' 1,087 m
Descent: -2,076' -633 m
High: 9,639' 2,938 m
Low: 6,461' 1,969 m
GradeAvg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 30% (17°)
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“Seldom traveled trail leads out of Yellowstone and connects to trails in Gallatin National Forest.”— Tom Carter
To reach the Buffalo Fork Trail, follow the first 2 miles of the Slough Creek Trail to the First Meadow, where you’ll find a trail junction on the left. The trail heads north and immediately makes a difficult ford of Slough Creek. Although the water is calm, it’s quite deep! It's not recommended until August. (Another way across Slough Creek is to take the Soldiers Trail from Slough Creek Campground. The ford there is swifter and difficult, but more shallow.)
From the ford the trail begins a 1300 foot climb to Yellowstone’s northern border. The first section climbing above the First Meadow is quite beautiful. At the 1.2-mile mark the Soldiers Trail joins from the left. As you continue climbing through sagebrush meadows, views of the First Meadow are superb. You also can see the top of rugged Cutoff Mountain to the northeast.
At 2.3 miles the trail reaches the top of the climb's steepest part. Soon the trail enters a spruce-fir forest heavily burned in the 1988 fires. In the canyon below you on the left, Buffalo Creek churns its way south to join Slough Creek. The trail stays above the creek and parallels it for the next 4 miles, then it drops 200 feet to a crossing of Buffalo Creek at the 7-mile mark. Along the way, you cross the boundary between Wyoming and Montana at the 4.3-mile mark (most of Yellowstone lies in WY with small portions in MT and ID) and the 45th parallel of latitude at the 4.5-mile mark, which is halfway between the North Pole and the Equator. At the 6.4-mile mark the trail leaves Yellowstone and enters Custer Gallatin National Forest.
The meadow at the Buffalo Creek crossing is lovely; nearby are good campsites (no reservations necessary in the National Forest). Fishing for rainbow trout on the Buffalo is also good (note a Montana fishing license is required once you leave Yellowstone). At 7.5 miles the trail passes a junction with the Poachers Trail (on left), then continues north closely following Buffalo Creek for 3 miles to the next beautiful meadow with more nice campsites.
The 22.8-mile trail continues for miles along the creek (twice crossing it) and climbing 2100 feet to Boulder Pass. It then drops into the drainage of the upper Boulder River and terminates on a 4-wheel drive road near the abandoned Independence Mine.
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone.
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