Yellowstone's Riverside Trail is accessible right from West Yellowstone from a spur road located along the fence break on Boundary Street (the east end of Madison Avenue at the park boundary). From there the trail follows a power line to the old service road and merges with it shortly before Riverside.
The "Upriver" and "Downriver" loops combine for nearly ten kilometers of groomed track up and down the banks of the Madison River along with great views of Mt. Holmes and the Gallatin Mountain Range. Wildlife is abundant along the river and you could encounter bison, elk, deer, moose, coyotes and foxes. Watch for bald eagles, trumpeter swans, and an occasional river otter in the river.
After one mile, you will experience the remnants of the 1988 Yellowstone fires and a realization of just how close the fires came to West Yellowstone. There are also stopping places along the way, great for a picnic break on a beautifully blue winter’s day.
Riverside Trail is perfect for new skiers or families with young children as it crosses easy terrain and has no substantial change in elevation.
Old Faithful Area Ski Trails
There are 40 miles of cross-country trails in the Old Faithful area many of which are interconnected. You can access up-to-date information on ski trails throughout Yellowstone at http://www.travelyellowstone.com/daily-trail-status-1688.html. Snowcoach drop-offs are available from the Snow Lodge to either the Divide or Fairy Falls trailheads.
Lone Star Geyser Trail (7360' to 7600') - 9 miles, easiest, 240 FT elevation gain/loss. Beginning across from the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, the trail follows Mallard Lake Trail through the Old Faithful Lodge cabin area crossing the Firehole River. The trail goes to the right following an old road cut to the snow vehicle road. Approximately 100 feet up the road, signs will direct you back into the woods. After skiing about a mile over moderate hills, the trail returns to the snow vehicle road at Kepler Cascades. Across the road the trail continues along the east bank of the Firehole River. The trail connects with and follows an old service road to Lone Star Geyser. (The geyser erupts about every three hours with activity lasting approximately 30 minutes.) Novice skiers should return to Old Faithful by the same route. A more difficult return route can be made on the Howard Eaton Trail.
Lone Star Geyser Loop Trail (7360' to 7860') 7 miles, easiest to more difficult, 500 FT elevation gain/loss. You may ski this loop in either direction; however, if you begin by following the Lone Star Geyser Trail, you will encounter some very steep downhill sections on the Howard Eaton Trail. If you begin your trip on the Howard Eaton Trail, be prepared for some steep climbs.
Spring Creek Trail (7360' to 8100') 8 miles, easiest to more difficult, 740 FT elevation gain/loss. This one-way trip begins with a drop off at Divide lookout Trailhead, approximately 7 miles east of Old Faithful. The trail follows Spring Creek consisting mostly of gentle downhill slopes with a few steep sections crossing back and forth over a series of bridges. After crossing the Firehole River Bridge, the trail joins the Lone Star Geyser Trail returning to Old Faithful.
Divide Lookout Trail (8044' to 8779') 3 miles, more difficult, 735 FT elevation gain/loss. The route begins approximately 7 miles east of Old Faithful. The trail climbs approximately 1.7 miles up to a lookout tower that is on the Continental Divide. See if you can spot the Teton Mountains in the distance.
Fern Cascades Loop Trail (7360' to 7600') 3 miles, more difficult, 240 FT elevation gain/loss
The one-way Fern Cascades trail begins next to the Old Faithful Snow lodge continuing past the ski shop. After the trail crosses the snow vehicle road, look for directional arrows marking the beginning of the one-way loop. For your enjoyment and safety, follow the one-way signs. The trail continues along a powerline, past some government buildings, turns left and climbs approximately 250 feet. The trail continues .2 miles through rolling woodlands to Fern Cascades. The loop continues through lodgepole pine forest until you reach the last section, a steep downhill run. Return to the Old Faithful Snow lodge by the same route.
Mallard Lake Trail (7320' to 8120') 6.6 miles, more difficult, 800 FT elevation gain/loss. The Mallard Lake Trail begins across the road from the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and leads through the Old Faithful lodge cabin area and down a short hill to the Firehole River. After crossing the bridge, the trail divides with the Mallard Lake Trail straight ahead and Lone Star to the right. There is a 750 foot climb to Mallard Lake with some steep sections. You’ll experience plenty of dense lodgepole pines.
Black Sand Basin Trail (7280' to 7360') 4 miles, easiest, 80 FT elevation gain/loss. The route begins in front of the Old Faithful Visitor Center and travels up Geyser Hill toward Morning Glory Pool. Take the turnoff to the Daisy Geyser Group and continue on this trail until you come to the snow vehicle road.
Mallard Creek Loop Trail (7320' to 8120') 2 miles, more difficult to most difficult, 760 FT elevation gain/loss. Follow the Mallard Lake Trail 3.2 miles going left at the fork before reaching the lake. From there, the trail is steep with challenging turns. The trail ends at the snow vehicle road. Here, take the trail to your left which parallels the main road back through the geyser basin to Old Faithful. (The trail to your right goes to Fairy Falls.)
Biscuit Basin loop Trail (7320' to 7360’) 5 miles, easiest, 40 FT elevation gain/loss. This is a favorite trail. The route begins across the road from Old Faithful Snow lodge and continues through the Geyser Basin. The trail goes east of Morning Glory Pool and on to Biscuit Basin. This trail passes by many thermal features with good possibilities of viewing wildlife. To complete a loop back to Old Faithful, follow the Mystic Falls Trail a few yards, then turn left onto a trail which leads down to a footbridge across the Little Firehole River. From the bridge, the trail continues through the woods and meadows for about a mile, returning to the main trail through the Geyser Basin at Grotto Geyser.
Mystic Falls Trail (7320' to 7400') 7 miles, easy to more difficult, 80 FT elevation gain/loss. Follow the Biscuit Basin Trail through Geyser Hill to Morning Glory Pool and on to Biscuit Basin. You will find the trail to Mystic Falls at the far end of the basin boardwalk area. After about 50 yards, the trail branches left to Summit Lake. Continuing on, the Mystic Falls Trail approaches the falls with a series of steep switchbacks. Return by the same route.
Fairy Falls Trail (7240' to 7400' ) 11 miles, easiest, 160 feet elevation gain/loss. The route begins at the southern end of the Fountain Flats Drive. At approximately 1.3 miles the trail divides. Continue skiing to the left passing through lodgepole pine forest to Fairy Falls, one of the most spectacular ice-encrusted falls in the park. To return to Old Faithful, ski back to the snow vehicle road and follow the trail that runs parallel to the Biscuit Basin Trail.
Tips for Yellowstone Skiers (Yellowstone National Park Service):
- Park elevations with adequate skiable snow range from 7,000 to 10,000 feet (2133 - 3048 meters.) Skiers and snowshoers who live at lower elevations should take a short day or overnight trip to test their capabilities before attempting longer outings.
- Choose skis and boots made for touring or mountaineering. Narrow racing skis won't provide enough surface area to break trail.
- Most trails are marked with orange metal markers attached to trees. Few streams have bridges. Even on a well-marked trail, it is easy to get lost in a "whiteout" or blizzard. Only skiers thoroughly familiar with the area should attempt off-trail travel. When planning your trip, get specific information on conditions from rangers at a ranger station or visitor center.
- Please do not approach wildlife. Large mammals survive on stored fat and low quality food during winter. Causing them to move will cost them precious calories vital for survival. If animals look at you and move away, you are too close.
- Winter weather in Yellowstone changes rapidly and can be severe. Many areas are frequently windy. Wear proper clothing. Watch yourself and other members of your party for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. For your safety, always ski with someone else. Carry extra clothing, food, water, map and compass, matches, flashlight, and a whistle. Sign in at trail registers and tell someone where you are going, by what route, and when you plan to return.
- When skiing near thermal areas, stay on marked trails. Approaching thermal features is dangerous because of unstable ground. The snow in these areas is often icy and what appears to be bare ground may be a thin crust over boiling water.