With its mysterious Devils Tower Butte and the riotously rainbow-colored Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, Wyoming is a one-of-a-kind hiking destination that must be seen to be believed. Wyoming is also home to many cascading waterfalls and proud alpine peaks.
Hiking in Wyoming is incredibly varied because of its two national parks, eight national forests, and twelve state parks. The Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park offer diverse and magical hiking trails for novice and seasoned hikers alike.
While it might appear that Wyoming is a run-of-the-mill hiking destination, it offers many hidden delights. Read on to find out more!
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What To Know: Hiking in Wyoming
Wyoming is home to twelve state parks, two national parks, and eight national forests. There are over a thousand trails scattered all around Wyoming, so you are spoiled with choice!
Note before you visit any national park in Wyoming that there may be a fee attached to your entrance. There are also usually fees at Wyoming State Park.
Also, if you want to camp in the Grand Teton National Park, reservations, which open six months before a date, are required. You also need a reservation if you plan to camp at some places in Yellowstone National Park.
Depending on the time of year and if you are from the state, you may or may not need to make a reservation for campsites in Wyoming National Parks. You should check the website of any park you would like to visit before you go there.
On all federal lands, masks are prerequisites where social distancing is impossible.
Essential Wyoming Hiking Supplies
Be sagacious and always come prepared for a hike, no matter where it may occur. Before you go anywhere, check the weather! Hiking in inclement weather can be exponentially more difficult, so make sure you are prepared.
Take care to include at least the following in your rucksack:
- Navigation tools like a map of the park and a compass
- LED headlamp with extra batteries
- Sunscreen, clothes, and a hat to protect you from the sun and polarized sunglasses
- First aid kit and prescription medicine
- Bug spray
- Matches or a lighter
- Emergency shelter and blanket
- Extra food and water
- A water filter
- Extra clothes
Be sure to wear suitable clothing and sturdy footwear. Definitely hike with a friend or hire a guide to ensure that you are not alone.
Red Beds Trail – Devils Tower National Monument
The first must-see trail on our list is Devils Trail. Devils Tower itself is a national monument, declared so in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt.
The Tower is most famous for its use in the 1977 film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” which led to the site’s burgeoning as a sanctuary for hikers and climbers. It is also called the Bear Lodge Butte by the local indigenous people.
There are, in fact, two trails that lead to the Butte. The Tower trail is a 1.3-mile paved loop, while the Red Beds Trail is a 2.8-mile loop. Both trailheads start at the visitor’s center of the Devils Tower National Monument.
The Red Beds Trail is not as crowded as the Tower Trail and offers better views of the Devils Tower. However, Red Beds is somewhat more strenuous than the Tower Trail.
Wildlife is abundant in this region, so be sure to bring along your binoculars! From blue herons to wild turkeys to prairie dogs, you never know what you’ll see. In spring and summer, wildflowers are ubiquitous. It is truly a sight to behold.
Beware of using this trail when there are rainstorms, as it is not advisable to pass some steep and rocky sections of the trail in bad weather.
Be sure to be respectful when you hike this trail of small bundles of cloth tied to tree branches along the trail. These are attached by indigenous people of the Northern Plains tribes to mark the sacred nature of the Butte to their people. Please do not touch or remove them.
Finally, pets are not allowed on the park trails. Rather leave your beloved companion safe at home.
Cascade Canyon Trail – Grand Teton National Park
This hike is one of the most popular of all of the Wyoming hikes. Read: many, many people partake in this hike. So, if you want to avoid the crowds, get up early and hit the trail.
This trail is a substantial 9.7-mile hike and has an elevation gain of 1128, making for a moderate hike.
You can take the Jenny Lake shuttle boat to travel across the lake during summer and spring to get to the trailhead. It would be best to start at the String Lake Trailhead during winter, as the boats will not be running.
This is a great hike to undergo if you are just itching to explore the Grand Teton Mountain Range. The trail leads past Inspiration Point, from which breathtaking views of the Grand Teton National Park can be observed.
Along the way, it is possible to also stop at Hidden Falls, a majestic waterfall nestled in the park. Some people stop once they have viewed these two points but continuing to Cascade Creek is a wonderful way to spend a day.
From Cascade Canyon, you can easily hike onto another route if you wish, as the site is a springboard to other hiking trails.
If you’d like to turn your day hike into an overnight backpacking occasion, you can continue to Lake Solitude by taking a right. But don’t forget to come prepared!
Lastly, be aware of your surroundings when hiking in Grand Teton National Park, as you may just run into a moose or a bear!
Union Falls Trail – Yellowstone National Park
Although there are innumerable ineffably beautiful trails in Yellowstone National Park, Union Falls is truly a standout. The trail leads to a glorious waterfall.
Starting at the Grassy Lake Trailhead, the hike to Union Falls is around 8 miles one way. It is not a short hike, and you should be prepared for either a long day or an overnight.
Because there are several water crossings, it would be practical to bring along trekking poles for the journey. There is also a profusion of wildlife, so make sure to bring along your bear spray!
The Union Falls constitute the second largest waterfall in Yellowstone National Park, at an impressive 256 feet. However, the waterfall gains its fame not from its height but its width. Two creeks merge to create this breathtaking waterfall.
If you are abounding with energy and wish to hike longer, take a small detour to Scout Pool, a naturally heated swimming pool at the base of a small waterfall.
Grand Prismatic Hot Spring Trail – Yellowstone National Park
This 1.6-mile trail is perfect for the beginner. Even if you are a seasoned hiker, you will still enjoy this short hike for its luxurious hot springs. The trail is mostly level, but it has a 200-foot elevation gain.
The Grand Prismatic is deeper than a ten-story building and larger than a football field. It is the third biggest spring worldwide and exhibits many different colors in the spring. The spring gets its vibrant colors from heat-loving bacteria living in the spring.
But don’t be tempted to swim in the springs. The scalding hot waters can be acidic and unsuitable for any beings besides microbes!
Medicine Bow Peak Trail – Routt National Forest
Medicine Bow Peak trail, the shortest way to get to Medicine Bow peak, is 1.6 miles long and starts at the Lewis Lake trailhead. This is a very popular hiking trail, but be warned that the ascent is more dramatic than the other trails to Medicine Bow Peak.
The Medicine Bow Peak is at a staggering height of 12 013 feet and is thus the highest peak in the Snowy Range. Alpine lakes can be viewed from above.
It is recommended to undertake this hike in late summer, but make sure you check the weather before you go so that you can avoid thunderstorms prevalent during summer.
Porcupine Falls Trail – Bighorn National Forest
The Bighorn National Forest is a gem. Not as heavily trafficked as Yellowstone and Teton, this Forest is brimming with interesting hikes to complete. Some of them, like Cloud Peak, are long and hard routes.
However, if you’re looking for something less than a mile to enjoy with your furry friend, Porcupine Falls Trail could be for you. Dogs must be kept on a leash in this forest.
This trail entails a descent of 440 feet to the waterfall below. There are some stairs built-in, but caution must be exercised with the rest of the trail, which is very steep.
Phelps Lake Trail – Grand Teton National Park
This trail consists of a loop of 7 miles in total. The elevation gain is 725 feet, making for a moderate hike providing remarkable views of the mountainous region.
Moose and deer are a regular feature of this area, so be on the lookout for them and other wildlife.
Bring your swimming costume as Phelps Lake is one of the best places for swimming in the area. If you are daring enough, leap off Jumping Rock, which is an astonishing 25 feet above the water. Just be warned that this is not recommended.
Since this is a well-liked trail, it fills up very quickly, so get an early start and make sure you secure a parking spot.
The best months to undertake this hike are between May and September. Dressing in layers is also advisable since the weather tends to warm up quickly.
Popo Agie Falls Trail – Shoshone National Forest
This lovely trail in the Shoshone National Forest, with intermediate difficulty, leads to a stunning waterfall. The trail isn’t overly crowded as most people choose to go to the National Parks, but it is truly a hidden gem.
The trailhead is at Bruce’s Parking area. You can lead your dogs and horses onto this trail.
There is a 600 feet elevation gain, and you might want to skip this trail if you fear heights because parts of it have no railing.
Static Peak Trail – Grand Teton National Park
So far, we’ve mostly discussed moderate or easy trails. I am going to leave you with a hard trail to consider attempting!
Static Peak is around a 16 mile out and back trail that will challenge you to no end. It is not as heavily trafficked of a trail, so you can get the wonderful views to yourself if you’re lucky!
The great thing about Static Peak is that you can climb to it without equipment and mountaineering experience – which is a rarity in the Tetons.
Static Peak’s name originates from how often lightning strikes it during the prevalent late afternoon thunderstorms. Definitely try to get an early start if you are hiking to Static Peak.
July to September are the most beautiful months for this hike, but those late afternoon storms only start ceasing in September, so you can go then if you are a late riser or a slow hiker. This trail can be used as an overnight, but much less preparation is needed for a whole day hike.
Grand Teton National Park expressly prohibits any dogs from being let into the park.
Hiking in Wyoming: Safety Tips
Any hike has some danger attached to it, but you can mitigate these risks by taking heed of the following safety tips.
- Avoid hiking alone.
- Always carry bear spray and know where it is in your pack.
- Always store food in bear-safe containers, and do not leave your food alone.
- Make as much noise as you can to frighten away any predators.
- Practice covid precautions, as regulated by the government.
- Make sure you know how to use your navigational tools.
- Do not run from bears, and do not drop your pack if a bear charges you.
In Wyoming, do go chasing waterfalls. You will be amply rewarded for doing so. From expansive and electric Union Falls to the quiet and picturesque Popo Agie Falls, you will be stunned by the breathtaking vistas in Wyoming’s National Parks and Forests.