Location: Mammoth Hot Springs

Distance: 6 miles 

Elevation Gain: ~1,000 feet

Gear Currently Needed: Traction devices would be wise to have, just in case, but are not required.

With a minimal snowpack in the Mammoth area of Yellowstone National Park, this is a perfect time to hit up the Beaver Ponds Loop Trail. Typically, this would be a rough snowshoe this time of the year. Right now it is a fantastic hike with a few sections of minimal snow and ice that few wander. Along the route, you’ll have mountain views, walk past frozen ponds, see animal tracks in the lingering snow, and maybe even spot bison, elk, or a coyote. 

The loop is roughly six miles in length and is best walked clockwise, from the trailhead near Liberty Cap. This direction starts by going uphill immediately for a mile but then it transitions into a gentle adventure with rolling ups and downs the rest of the route. The only real directions you’ll need are found in the first mile, where you will encounter two junctions, one at 0.2 miles and the other at 0.7 miles. Stay to the right along the Beaver Ponds Trail at both junctions.

When I recently hiked this, I was the only person on the trail the entire day, giving me an amazing dose of silence and solitude. I watched a herd of elk walk across a clearing a few hundred yards away, heard woodpeckers in trees above me, and the hoot of an owl in the distance. I also came across coyote and wolf prints in the snow, with some of the tracks going directly across Beaver Ponds. 

This hike isn’t for everyone, as six miles and a thousand feet of gain can be a big day. However, if you are seeking a unique adventure on a trail that is largely overlooked this time of the year, you can’t go wrong with Beaver Ponds. You’ll start by seeing the terraces and steam at Mammoth Hot Springs and end with a sweeping view of the Mammoth region. There are also some pretty spectacular viewpoints along the way, as well as some cool bones scattered about. 

If you have the energy and are in shape enough to do it, I would follow this adventure with a walk around the Upper Terrace Loop in Mammoth. The combo of the two makes for a truly spectacular day in the Mammoth area of the park. If you wanted, you could have lunch in Mammoth in between the two adventures, capping off your day with a sunset stroll atop the terraces. 

NOTE: This post is for the week (Tuesday to Tuesday) of Dec 12th-19th, 2023. If you’d like current conditions for this trail, please shoot me a text or email and I’ll respond as soon as I can. If you’d like other trail suggestions, you can go here to our archives or pick up a copy of one of my “Hiking in Yellowstone” guidebooks. A new guidebook with easy hikes all around the park will be available in 2024.

If you’d like to experience this trail with an expert guide, so you can see all the best spots, learn about the history of the region, and more, this is one of my winter hiking tours. I also provide snowshoes, if needed.

The terraces at Mammoth from the Beaver Ponds Trailhead
A frozen pond along the Beaver Ponds Trail in Yellowstone National Park
A frozen pond and part of Sepulcher Peak in Yellowstone National Park
The Beaver Ponds Trail heading back to Mammoth Hot Springs