Fairy Creek Trail
ElevationAscent: 1,217' 371 m
Descent: -1,288' -393 m
High: 8,223' 2,506 m
Low: 7,271' 2,216 m
GradeAvg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 38% (21°)
Current trail conditions
Popular runs nearby
Mystic Falls Loop
3.5 mi 5.6 km • Loop • 597 ft Ascent 182.07 m Ascent
Singletrack Yellowstone, WY( 29 )
Fairy Falls-Imperial Geyser
6.6 mi 10.7 km • Loop • 220 ft Ascent 67.18 m Ascent
Singletrack Old Faithful Village, WY( 22 )
31.6 mi 50.9 km • Point to Point • 1,408 ft Ascent 429.16 m Ascent
Singletrack Old Faithful Village, WY( 5 )
6.8 mi 11.0 km • Out and Back • 1,570 ft Ascent 478.47 m Ascent
Singletrack Madison Junction, WY( 5 )
Elephant Back Mountain
3.8 mi 6.1 km • Loop • 773 ft Ascent 235.59 m Ascent
Singletrack Lake Village, WY( 10 )
7.3 mi 11.7 km • Out and Back • 1,384 ft Ascent 421.81 m Ascent
Doubletrack Canyon Village, WY( 27 )
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“Trail tours past a beautiful Madison Plateau overlook, Little Firehole Meadows, and Imperial Geyser.”— Tom Carter
The Fairy Creek Trail splits right from the Mystic Falls Trail and switchbacks steeply 430 feet up the Madison Plateau in the first .6 miles. At the top, you’ll reach a wonderful overlook of the entire Upper Geyser Basin. The 150 active geysers in the basin comprise more than 25% of the world's total and include some of the largest and most predictable geysers. Sit and wait a while and maybe you'll see one erupt. Old Faithful Geyser, surrounded by buildings, is easy to spot. Other geysers with eruptions large enough to identify from here include Castle, Grand and Riverside geysers.
After enjoying the view, follow Fairy Creek Trail west as it runs up and down through burned forests along the rim of the plateau. At 1.1 miles the Mystic Falls Trail rejoins from the left. From here, the trail climbs another 400 feet to its highpoint at 2.9 miles. You'll not notice it, but the headwaters of Fairy Creek lie just to the right. The trail then drops 300 feet to the Little Firehole River at 5.1 miles. This river contains a diverse mix of brook, brown, rainbow, and cutthroat trout. The trail parallels the river for the next 1/2 mile then breaks out on the edge of beautiful Little Firehole Meadows at 5.6 miles. In this huge meadow, three creeks come together to form the Little Firehole. Be sure to make your way up the hill to the right of the trail for the best view of the meadow.
The trail continues along the northeast edge of the meadow for a 1/2 mile then reenters the burned forest. The next 4+ miles travels over a fairly boring section of the Madison Plateau. At the 10-mile mark it finally breaks out and affords nice views off the plateau to a pretty valley into which the trail descends. The prominent mound to the northeast is South Twin Butte. The buttes are huge mounds of gravel dropped by glaciers thousands of years ago as they passed over active hot springs.
At 11 miles Imperial Geyser is reached. A contest was organized in the 1920s to name it. After "Imperial" was chosen it fell dormant. Today, it merely boils and waits for subterranean changes to call it forth once again. The trail continues east and ends at the 11.3-mile mark.
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone.
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Land Manager: National Park Service - Yellowstone National Park