“The broad, open meadow of spectacular Slough Creek is a hiker's dream and a fisherman's holy grail!”
— Tom Carter
River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
The trail follows an old road-bed and is one of the easiest full-day hikes in Yellowstone. Once you get past the 400-foot climb over the hill to the First Meadow you have it made.
Slough Creek is grizzly country. Take precautions. In 1922, a grizzly killed poacher Frenchy Duret on Slough Creek just north of the park, in a meadow now known as Frenchy Meadows. His bloody death was splashed across newspapers nationwide. Mosquitoes are also a serious consideration until late July.
The trail follows the historic road-bed that leads to the Silver Tip Ranch. It makes a short 400-foot climb then drops into Slough Creek’s beautiful “First Meadow.” It continues north following the creek and leads to even more spectacular broad, open meadows with great views of the surrounding mountains. It reaches a great turn-around spot at a NPS patrol cabin a little over 7 miles from the trailhead.
Need to Know
The trailhead is found just south of Slough Creek Campground, 2 gravel-road miles north of the Northeast Entrance Road. There are no fords to worry about. The trail's relatively low elevation generally makes it a good trail from June through October (but bring plenty mosquito repellant early in the season).
The Slough Creek Trail
follows an old wagon road that leads to the Silver Tip Ranch, a century-old guest ranch that caters to hunters and fly fishermen. The ranch lies just beyond Yellowstone's northern boundary. Occasionally wagons are seen along the road taking guests or supplies to the ranch.
The trail begins with a decent, 400-foot climb in first mile. As you climb, enjoy occasional views to the southwest of Little America Meadows, through which lower Slough Creek flows to join the Lamar River. The trail tops the hill, drops 170 feet, and enters the “First Meadow” at the 2-mile mark (the Second & Third Meadows are further upstream). Here the spectacular beauty of Slough Creek’s broad open meadows unfolds before you. Nearby the Buffalo Fork Trail
splits to the left and makes a difficult ford of Slough Creek and a National Park Service patrol cabin is passed on the right.
The creek was named in 1867 by gold prospectors who said it “Twas but a slough," and the name stuck. Slough Creek is the holy grail for many fly fishermen, in fact some guides proclaim it to be the finest cutthroat trout stream in America if not the world! Bring gear and try your hand (catch and release only), but also bring a Yellowstone Fishing Permit.
The trail makes a brief rise away from the creek then rejoins it at 3.7 miles. From here the trail skirts the edge of the valley, rising gently for the remainder of the way out. Nearby Slough Creek rolls tirelessly along on it's meandering path. At 5.8 miles, notice how the creek has over time changed its course and left behind scars on the land, even a small oxbow lake. In July, wildflowers mantle the valley. Wild onion is one of the most prevalent. Its slender stem rises a foot-and-a-half and is topped by a clump of small reddish-purple flowers. The familiar smell is a giveaway.
At the 7.2-mile mark the trail crosses Elk Tongue Creek then reaches Elk Tongue Patrol Cabin. To the right the Bliss Pass Trail
rises 2500 feet then drops into upper Pebble Creek
. The patrol cabin area is a nice place to have a picnic or cast a line. Or, just rest a bit and enjoy the views of the meadows and Cutoff Mountain that dominates the skyline to the northeast. Once you have soaked up the beauty of this place, retrace your steps to the trailhead.
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
Slough Creek is grizzly country. You also have opportunities to see moose, bison, elk and sandhill crane. In July and August the wild flowers are great!