Location: Trailhead is ~3.5 miles west of Tower Junction
Distance: 2.2 to 7 miles, depending on the adventure you choose
Elevation Gain: 500 feet to 1,000 feet, depending on the route taken
Gear Typically Needed In the Winter: Snowshoes and/or traction devices, warm clothes, trekking poles, food and water
Gear Typically Needed In the Summer: Bear Spray, trekking poles, food and water
Yellowstone National Park’s Helloraring Trail is emerging as a favorite trek in the park’s northern range, taking active visitors beyond the park’s boardwalks and into more wild and rugged terrain. As you embark on the Hellroaring Trail in Yellowstone, the promise of a captivating adventure for nature enthusiasts and hikers alike becomes readily apparent.
This scenic trail unfolds its beauty as you navigate through switchbacks, offering panoramic views of the Yellowstone River before reaching the iconic suspension bridge over a narrow canyon. The suspension bridge isn’t some rickety bridge. It is quite wide and sturdy but does bounce a little, so be ready for that.
After taking in the sights of the bridge, some choose to turn around and head back up to their cars. Those who hike on will soon find themselves in an expansive prairie heading toward Hellroaring Creek. At the creek, hikers can embark on a “choose your own adventure” experience, wandering along the creekside, hiking to and crossing another bridge, fording the creek, encountering scattered bones and antlers, or seeing the captivating scenes found at the confluence of the creek with the Yellowstone River.
The trail’s year-round appeal, with changing seasons showcasing different perspectives, ensures that it remains an enticing destination throughout the year. Whether it’s the vibrant colors of spring, the lush greenery of summer, or the golden hues of fall, the Hellroaring Trail invites hikers to immerse themselves in the diverse and ever-changing beauty of Yellowstone’s wilderness.
If you do hike this in the winter, please know that the short road down to the trailhead is closed. You’ll need to park west of the closed-off road at the pullout and walk to the trailhead.
A Few Important Distances:
One-way Distance to Bridge: 1.1 miles
One-way Distance to Creek: 2.1 miles
One-way Distance to the Confluence of Creek and River: 3.4 miles
What I Consider to Be the Highlights
The initial allure of this trail is its breathtaking views of the Yellowstone River, which unfolds as you navigate down switchbacks. As you descend and shed the majority of elevation, a captivating sight awaits – a bridge spanning a narrow canyon over the roaring river below. Beyond the bridge lies the expansive prairie, leading you toward Hellroaring Creek. Upon reaching the creek, an exciting opportunity unfolds.
Some may just want to wander the creekside, tracing wildlife tracks in the mud. I often will see wolves and coyote tracks in the mud, while the occasional bear print can also be spotted in the right season. You could also hike upstream to encounter a backcountry cabin after crossing a bridge. This option adds some serious miles, but if you have all day to wander, I strongly recommend it. If the creek is running low, you could also ford the creek and head toward Hellroaring Mountains, where the prairie and rocks reveal bones and antlers scattered around. My usual route is to follow the trail downstream to witness the confluence of the creek with the Yellowstone River. I tend to see the most wildlife when I go this way and also have a chance to follow a boot path along the Yellowstone River to get a stunning view of a hidden section of the river. Your choices at Hellroaring are many, and there are no wrong decisions, provided you prioritize safety and Leave No Trace ethics.
This trail also serves as a prime location for wildlife enthusiasts. Bison are likely to roam year-round, while eagles and hawks grace the skies or perch on trees. The area has been known to host bighorn sheep, elk, and badgers. Notably, wolf sightings have been frequent in recent years, enhancing the Hellroaring region’s appeal. During late spring, summer, and fall, bear sightings are also common, making this trail an exciting haven for nature enthusiasts.
What Some Consider to Be The Lowlights
Embarking on the ascent from the suspension bridge to the trailhead poses a considerable challenge for many adventurers. This 1.1-mile hike, retracing the path from the bridge, encompasses an elevation gain of approximately 500 feet, elevating you from 5,900 feet to 6,400 feet above sea level. Even those accustomed to regular running and exercise may find the uphill climb demanding during my guided tours on this trail. My intent is not to dissuade you from exploring this path but rather to offer a friendly caution and ensure you are well-prepared for the ascent.
Some online reviews have noted the absence of thermal features on this trail. While this observation holds merit, as there are no thermal features found on this trek, there are numerous alternative trails covering hundreds of miles that lead to thermal features elsewhere in the park.
One notable challenge with this trail is the limited shade, making it quite warm on sunny days. The combination of high temperatures, elevation, and steep inclines can create a taxing experience. To enhance your journey, take it slow, indulge in frequent breaks, and ensure you carry an ample supply of water and electrolytes.
Want More Hikes in and Around the Park?
If you desire longer days to even more stunning scenery in and around Yellowstone National Park, you have come to the right place. I have written a guidebook that gives you over 50 hiking destinations in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, all of which are sure to leave you craving even more outdoor adventures when in the region. You can get both an ebook copy and a paperback copy of the guidebook.
I also offer private hiking tours in Yellowstone National Park, taking you beyond the boardwalks and into the serenity and beauty of Yellowstone’s backcountry. If you have always wanted to head out on a trail and see what is found in the wilds of the park, I will help you experience the perfect trail. See my trail tour offerings here, or send me an email.