This is a short but steep hike up Avalanche Peak with unrivaled views into the eastern portion of Yellowstone National Park and beyond. The trail does not contain many switchbacks, has some rocky footing, and the rapid ascent from the trailhead definitely gets the heart beating. Check trail conditions at a visitor center if hiking Avalanche Peak in June or early July. Lingering winter snow can make the short but challenging route much more difficult. Great views begin in just over a mile when then trail rises above the treeline and continue for the duration of the hike. The easiest portion of the hike is actually the final quarter mile of trail.
What Makes It Great
The trail begins along a stream directly across from the picnic area on the west end of Eleanor Lake. While not well marked, the trail is easy to follow and climbs immediately through mature forest. Within the first mile the trail crosses a stream. Here, a secondary trail runs directly up the drainage. Do not take this secondary trail and please be mindful of the park’s effort to rehabilitate the area and reduce erosion. Continue on the actual trail, which bears left and traverses the slope. Beyond the stream the trail crosses an open avalanche chute. Notice the lack of large trees in the chute that are unable to grow due to natural avalanche occurrences. Climbing almost a half-mile further brings hikers above the treeline and the great views begin.
From the top of Avalanche Peak, hikers can gaze to the east past the park boundary and into the Absaroka Range and the Absaroka Wilderness that straddles the mountains just utside of Yellowstone's boundary. This is one of the wildest, most roadless spaces in the lower 48 states. The Absaroka Wilderness is part of the Shoshone National Forest, which borders Yellowstone’s eastern flank. Like Yellowstone National Park, the Shoshone National Forest was the first of its kind when created — the first national forest and the first national park in one sweeping, alpine, panoramic view.
Who is Going to Love It
Intermediate hikers looking for a short but challenging experience will love this hike. If you’re staying in the Lake or Fishing Bridge area, and would like to earn better views than the much easier Elephant Back Mountain trail can provide, try Avalanche Peak.
Expert hikers looking for a quick fix will also love Avalanche Peak. The trail’s steep grade will challenge even the strongest of calf muscles in at least a few sections.
Both intermediate and expert hikers should be well prepared. The top of Avalanche Peak is very exposed. Check the weather before leaving and be sure to bring the right equipment including proper clothing, food, and water.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Fishing Bridge: Drive 19 miles east to Eleanor Lake and park on the south side of the road in the picnic area near the west end of the lake. Parking is free with an Entrance Pass.