“Follow beautiful Fan Creek as it winds its way up through a series of narrow meadows.
— Tom Carter
River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
The last 2 miles of the Fan Creek Trail skirts the Gallatin Bear Management Area. From May 1 through November 10, travel is allowed only on designated trails (off-trail travel is prohibited). A minimum group size of four or more is recommended for running and camping.
The Fan Creek Trail splits north from the Fawn Pass Trail
, just 1.3 miles from U.S. Highway 191. This under appreciated trail closely follows beautiful Fan Creek as it winds its way up through a series of narrow meadows. The creek was named by early geologists who believed its numerous forks divided seven radial ridges into the shape of a fan.
Along the first part of the trail, Fan Creek supports a healthy population of willows, which provide excellent moose habitat. Watch closely, although the moose is the largest member of the deer family and commonly attains a weight of 900 pounds, here among the willows their large dark bodies quickly appear and disappear. The name "moose" comes from an Algonquin Indian term meaning "twig eater." These curious-looking creatures are highly specialized for this aquatic habitat. Their long legs allow them to move more freely about the marsh and feed on the leaves, bark and twigs of the willows.
After about a mile, the trail climbs 100 feet, passes the Fan Creek Campsite Trail
, and drops to a ford of Fan Creek (at 1.6 miles). There is no bridge here and the creek can be thigh-deep until mid-July. Take note that this spring-fed creek runs fairly high even into August. You may see anglers in the area pursuing illusive 9-10 inch cutthroat and rainbow trout.
The next 2 miles of the trail are my favorite, as it follows an embankment just above the creek. Views up and down the narrow valley are excellent. Notice how the creek twists and turns. Over time it has changed course and left behind scars on the land, even a number of small oxbow lakes. At 3.6 miles a good-sized unnamed tributary is crossed. Just to the left is the 2nd of 3 excellent campsites found on Fan Creek.
From here the creek gets smaller, the valley and meadows get narrower, and the trail begins to gain a bit more elevation. At 5.2 miles you pass a large meadow where the North Fork and East Fork of Fan Creek combine. Nearby is the 3rd Fan Creek campsite. The less scenic last 2 miles of the trail follow the North Fork, crossing it at the 6.7-mile mark, before ending at a junction with the Sportsman Lake Trail
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone
Flora & Fauna
Excellent chance to see to see moose, elk and sandhill crane. Grizzly bears also frequent the area.