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blueBlack Poachers Trail


6.8 mile 11.0 kilometer point to point
76% Runnable


Ascent: 1,793' 547 m
Descent: -1,801' -549 m
High: 9,342' 2,847 m
Low: 7,541' 2,299 m


Avg Grade: 10% (6°)
Max Grade: 27% (15°)


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Trail shared by Tom Carter

Century-old poachers' trail skirts Yellowstone's boundary as it climbs up and over Buffalo Plateau.

Tom Carter

Features Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Parts of this National Forest Service trail may be difficult to find. Only take this trail if you have confidence in your route-finding skills.


This trail is called the Old “Poachers” or “Trappers” Trail because it was built and maintained by poachers in the early 1900s. They used it to travel along the park’s northern boundary, sneaking across the line to hunt elk. The elk meat ironically was sold to the U.S. Cavalry who were there to protect wildlife from poachers. The National Forest Service now maintains the trail (NFS Trail #98) which is sometimes called the NFS Buffalo Plateau Trail.

The Poachers Trail begins from a lovely meadow on Buffalo Creek just north of Yellowstone National Park, at a junction with the Buffalo Fork Trail, 7.5 miles from its trailhead in Slough Creek’s First Meadow. The Poachers Trail ends at a junction with the Coyote Creek Trail, 6 miles from its trailhead near Hellroaring Creek.

The Poachers Trail climbs 1800 feet through heavily burned forests to the top of the Buffalo Plateau in the first 3 miles. Watch closely for the trail on the ground, it may be difficult to follow in spots. Just prior to the top of the plateau, the trail passes a trail junction on the left with Yellowstone’s Buffalo Plateau Trail. From the top you get nice views both east (of the Buffalo Creek drainage) and west (of the Coyote Creek drainage). The trail then drops 1800 feet in the next 3.8 miles to join the Coyote Creek Trail.

Parts of the Poachers Trail can be used to make several long loop or shuttle routes down Yellowstone's Buffalo Plateau Trail:

The eastern half of the Poachers Trail can be used as part of a 22-mile shuttle from Slough Creek Campground to Hellroaring Trailhead. Take the Slough Creek Trail (or the Soldiers Trail) 2 miles to the First Meadow, then follow the Buffalo Fork Trail 7.5 miles to just north of the park, there pick up the Poachers Trail for 2.6 miles to the top of Buffalo Plateau, then follow the Buffalo Plateau Trail 8.6 miles south to a junction with Hellroaring Creek Trail, and take the last 1.5 miles out to the Hellroaring Trailhead.

The western half of the Poachers Trail can be used as part of a 20-mile loop from the Hellroaring Trailhead. Start on the first 1.5 miles of the Hellroaring Creek Trail, then a short .5-mile section of the Buffalo Plateau Trail to the Coyote Creek Trailhead, then the first 6 miles of Coyote Creek Trail to a junction with the Poachers Trail, then 4.2 miles up the Poachers Trail to the Buffalo Plateau Trail, and follow it 8.6 miles back to the Hellroaring Creek Trail and out.

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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