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blueBlack Hellroaring Creek Trail

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17.4 mile 28.0 kilometer point to point


Ascent: 2,044' 623 m
Descent: -1,238' -377 m
High: 7,336' 2,236 m
Low: 5,838' 1,780 m


Avg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 28% (16°)


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Trail shared by Tom Carter

Drop to a dramatic crossing of the Yellowstone and continue along well-named Hellroaring Creek!

Tom Carter

Features Birding · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Few hike the full length of this trail. It leads out of Yellowstone and into the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness. From there, it's many miles to the nearest road. It is possible to make this a 24-mile loop hike by leaving the Hellroaring Creek Trail at the 10.9-mile mark and following the Telephone Basin Trail east, then the Coyote Creek Trail south, back to the Hellroaring Creek Trail near where it crosses the Yellowstone River.


The first 7.5 miles of Hellroaring Creek Trail lie in Yellowstone. Thereafter, it enters Custer Gallatin National Forest and continues 10 miles along the creek to its headwaters near Hellroaring Meadows.

The trail begins with a steep 600-foot drop in first 1.1 miles, through Douglas-Fir forests that show the effects of the 1988 fires. It passes Garnet Hill Spur Trail (on right) at .8 miles and soon arrives at a dramatic crossing of the Yellowstone River. Here an impressive steel suspension bridge constructed in 1935 hangs above a small rock gorge. Far below the mighty Yellowstone rushes furiously by.

The trail continues through a stand of large Douglas-firs. The name is hyphenated because it is not a true fir. Its generic name is pseudotsuga, meaning "false hemlock." In Yellowstone they are found only in a narrow elevation band between 6,000 and 7,000 feet. Its most distinctive feature is its female cone, which contains three-pronged, feather-like bracets between its scales. Look around for examples of these unusual seed cones.

The trail leaves the forest, passes a junction with the Buffalo Plateau Trail (at 1.5 miles), and continues across a sagebrush flat. The prominent conical peak that lies ahead is Hellroaring Mountain (8,363'). It's the largest outcropping of granite in Yellowstone. Most of the park's granite has been buried beneath later volcanic debris. Granite is a form of hard volcanic rock that cooled very slowly underground, allowing crystals to form.

At 2 miles a junction with the Hellroaring Stock Cutoff Trail is reached. The Hellroaring Creek Trail continues straight, fords the creek, turns right, and continues north along the creek. To avoid this swift, dangerous ford, most hikers follow the cutoff trail 2 miles north and cross on a stock bridge. Both trails afford great views of Hellroaring Creek, named in 1867 by gold prospectors who it was a real "hell roarer," and the name stuck.

Just past the bridge, you rejoin the main trail (at 4 miles) as it continues north. For the next 4.5 miles the trail closely follows Hellroaring Creek as it churns south, earning its name. At 7.5 miles the trail leaves Yellowstone, enters the NFS Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness, and continues another 10 miles along the creek. There it joins with other wilderness trails.

It is possible to make this a loop hike by leaving the trail at the 10.9-mile mark and following Telephone Basin Trail to Coyote Creek Trail back to the Yellowstone River.

Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone.

Flora & Fauna

Chance to see elk, buffalo, and coyote.


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