The trail drops to a dramatic crossing of the Yellowstone River on a steel suspension bridge, continues across a sagebrush flat, then swings south and follows Hellroaring Creek to its mouth.
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. If you want to shorten your outing, this is a nice spot to turn around.
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. You may also spy one of the numerous middens that squirrels have built in the area. These are large moist mounds of discarded scales and other inedible remains, as well as freshly cut cones and seeds, stored for later consumption. It took many generations of squirrels to fashion the middens that are found here.
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 more recent volcanic debris. Granite is a form of hard volcanic rock that cooled very slowly underground, allowing crystals to form. On the opposite end of the spectrum is obsidian, a black volcanic glass, which cools so quickly no impurities are allowed to form.
At the 2-mile mark, a junction with the Hellroaring Stock Cutoff Trail
is passed (on the right). The trail continues to the left and in just a few yards reaches another junction. Leave the main trail here and follow the spur trail to campsites 2H4 and 2H2 as it parallels Hellroaring Creek. The creek is said to have received its name from an early prospector who went ahead of his party to scout a route along the Yellowstone River. Upon his return he reported that the next creek to be crossed was a real "hell roarer" and the name stuck.
At the 3.4-mile mark the spur trail ends at the confluence of Hellroaring Creek and the Yellowstone River (near campsite 2H2). It is a delightful spot, with a sandy beach shaded by one large cottonwood and a number of Douglas-fir trees. You may want to bring your fishing gear along on this trip! Angling for cutthroat trout is excellent in Hellroaring Creek and the Yellowstone.
Return to the trailhead by retracing your steps. Those who want to explore a bit more before returning can follow the Hellroaring Stock Cutoff Trail
north along the creek. The trail leads through open meadows and then along the creek for 2 miles to a bridged crossing.
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone
Chance to see elk, buffalo, coyote, and grizzly.