The Mountain Creek Trail, together with the Eagle Pass Trail
, is the shortest route to reach the Thorofare Trail
. From US highway 20 east of Yellowstone it’s 14.9 miles to Eagle Pass, then another 10.2 miles on the Mountain Creek Trail to reach the Thorofare Trail
, along the Upper Yellowstone River, 6 miles south of Yellowstone Lake. From there, it’s another 7 miles to the Thorofare Patrol Cabin, the most remote spot in the Lower 48.
From Eagle Pass the Mountain Creek Trail drops 1600 feet to join the Thorofare Trail
. It loses 650 feet in the first mile, then gradually the remainder over the next 9.2 miles. As you descend views of Eagle Peak (11,358), Yellowstone’s highest, dominate views to the right. Ahead, views to the south down Howell Creek to the Trident on the horizon are also outstanding. At the 1-mile mark the trail crosses Howell Creek and begins to level out. The entire area traversed by the Mountain Creek Trail was burned by the 1988 fires, and continues to show significant fire effects.
At 2 miles the trail crosses back over Howell Creek. The trail continues along the creek and at 3.5 miles passes the Howell Fork Patrol Cabin. Shortly thereafter the Dike Creek Trail
splits off to the left (it quickly climbs to the park boundary and continues into the Teton Wilderness Area in Bridger-Teton NF). As you continue southwest, the trail passes several excellent campsites with impressive views of Turret Mountain to the west. By the time you reach the second campsite (6D6) at the 5.2-mile mark, you can see the impressive gun turret-like breccia rock formation that gives the mountain its name. This difficult and dangerous knob-shaped pillar repelled all attempts to climb it until 2001.
The trail bends to the right around the southern end of Turret Mountain. At 7.8 miles the trail passes campsite 6D5 on Mountain Creek, just below the confluence of Howell and Mountain creeks. It continues along the north side of Mountain Creek passing the Mountain Creek Triangle Trail
(a cutoff trail for those heading south) at 9.2 miles and reaching its end at the junction with the Thorofare Trail
at 10.2 miles.
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone
This is grizzly country; take all necessary precautions. Good chances to see elk along much of the trail.