Hayden Valley, Yellowstone: 7 Reasons to go!

Why You Should Visit Hayden Valley
Discover Hayden Valley in Yellowstone: its rich history, diverse wildlife, and top activities like hiking, fishing, and camping. A must-visit paradise!

Whether you are exploring Yellowstone’s geysers, hiking its trails, or learning about its wildlife and history you will always be rewarded with incredible views. The Hayden Valley seems to outdo itself. It is home to some of the most massive mountains in the park and is the perfect place for animal lovers.

No matter what activity you have planned, it is likely that at some point you will wander into this part of the park.

It has beautiful trails, pristine waterfalls and is home to a wide variety of wildlife. And it was created purely by nature – unlike any other national park!

The Hayden Valley is one of the most accessible and beautiful sections of Yellowstone National Park. Camping, hiking, picnicking, fishing and fly-fishing are popular pastimes. It’s also a wildlife haven — home to the Northern Yellowstone Herd of bison, pronghorns, bighorn sheep, elk, bears and wolves.

Here are just a few reasons we think you should go to this piece of paradise 🙂

The history of the valley

The Hayden Valley is a large valley between Mount Hayden and Mount Sheridan, two peaks in Yellowstone National Park. The valley is approximately five miles long and up to 1,000 feet deep. It was created by glaciers during the last ice age which retreated 12,000 years ago.

Why You Should Visit Hayden Valley 1

It was named for Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, who led the 1870s survey expedition that first explored the area.

The Hayden Survey was the first geological and topographic survey of Yellowstone National Park. It was conducted during 1871-1872 under the direction of Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden and George M. Wheeler, who led separate parties into the park. Their work resulted in an unprecedented body of information about Yellowstone’s geology, natural resources, and wildlife.

The survey included an ethnographic component, recording information on Native American tribes in the region and their use of natural resources. The surveyors also recorded cultural sites such as stone circles or mounds left behind by prehistoric cultures who lived in the region centuries before Europeans arrived.

The Yellowstone River and the Wildlife

The Yellowstone River takes a big bend through Hayden Valley.

For those with less time, consider taking a scenic float trip down the Yellowstone River, or riding in the back of an open-air safari vehicle to see the sights. Take your time to experience where you are.

The Yellowstone River meanders slowly through the Hayden Valley. The wide-open endless grassy plains resemble the prairie of yesteryear with gently sloping hills ringed by ranges of jagged mountain peaks.

Why You Should Visit Hayden Valley 2

The Hayden Valley is one of the few spots in Yellowstone where you can find a high concentration of wildlife, especially bison. This area is home to approximately 1,500 bison and 150 elk, which feed on lush grasses and willows that grow along the river bank.

In springtime, grizzly bears emerge from hibernation and make their way to these valleys looking for food. Grizzly bears have been known to dig up dead animals buried beneath snow drifts so they can feed on them during this time of year. The Hayden Valley is also home to wolves and coyotes as well as many other animals including foxes, beavers, porcupines and even badgers!


Fishing in the Hayden Valley is one of the most popular activities at Yellowstone National Park. The Hayden Valley is located in the middle of the park and is home to bison, elk, grizzly bears and wolves.

Fishing hayden valley yellowstone

Fishing in the Hayden Valley is best done early in the morning (before 10am) or late in the afternoon (after 3pm). This allows you to avoid crowds and get out on the water before it gets too hot. Fishing from shore is allowed but only by permit from May until September. If you have a boat, this will allow you to fish earlier than those who must wait for a dock space to open up.

There are some great places to fish along Lake Creek near Fishing Bridge Marina. The creek flows into Fishing Bridge Lagoon which has several good spots for wading or casting from shore. This can be crowded at times but there are plenty of opportunities if you’re willing to walk around a bit.

The Yellowstone River below Fishing Bridge also offers good fishing opportunities but it can be very crowded so early morning or late evening trips are recommended if possible.


There are several hiking trails that lead into the Hayden Valley including Lamar Valley Trail and Slough Creek Trail which both lead to Koda Peak and other geothermal features such as Morning Glory Pool, Grand Prismatic Spring, and Excelsior Geyser Basin.

Hayden Valley Trail

he Hayden Valley Trail is a 30-mile long loop trail that begins at the South Entrance of Yellowstone National Park and ends at the North Entrance. The trail passes through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the park including Lamar Valley, Hayden Valley and Heart Lake. The trail is open all year round but can be difficult to navigate during winter months due to snowfall. It is recommended that visitors use a 4×4 vehicle to travel this trail during winter months.

Hayden Valley Trail

Along the trail, you will find many different types of trees including aspen, pine and fir trees. In addition, there are many wildflowers in this area such as Indian paintbrush, scarlet gilia and columbine flowers. The Hayden Valley is home to numerous bird species including bluebirds, chickadees and woodpeckers.

The Hayden Valley is an area that was once under glacial ice during the last Ice Age, when much of Yellowstone was buried under thick sheets of ice. The glacier left behind deep depressions in the land which were filled with water after the ice melted. These depressions became lakes.

Mary Mountain Trail

Mary Mountain Trail (20 mile point to point) is an easy hike in Yellowstone National Park that features some of the park’s most spectacular scenery. The Mary Mountain Trail is an easy hike in Yellowstone National Park that features some of the park’s most spectacular scenery.

Mary Mountain Trail

The trailhead is located just north of Canyon Village on the west side of Hayden Valley. A parking area is located here, at the end of Lower Loop Road.

The trail begins with a gentle climb through pine forest before reaching a high meadow with stunning views of Castle Geyser and Grand Prismatic Spring. It continues along the ridge, passing through more meadows with views across Hayden Valley before descending to Mary Lake.

The lake provides excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing and photography; a large herd of bison often grazes here during the summer months.

Trails lead from the lake to nearby thermal areas, including Morning Glory Pool and Midway Geyser Basin, where you can see vast numbers of colorful hot springs and geysers erupting in unison.

Howard Eaton Trail

The Howard Eaton Trail is a 12-mile loop trail in Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park that features beautiful views of the park. The trail can be accessed from the Timber Creek day use area or from the Salt Creek day use area. The trail follows an old roadbed that was once used to haul timber out of Hayden Valley and into the town of Gardiner.

Howard Eaton Trail yellowstone hiking

The first two miles of this loop are relatively flat and easy to hike. You can see some wildlife along this section including pronghorn, elk, bison and moose. After two miles you will reach the top of a ridge where you will get your first panoramic view of Hayden Valley as well as a great view of Mount Washburn across the valley. From here it’s mostly downhill until you reach Timber Creek at mile 4 where there is another nice view of Mount Washburn.

You’ll pass through several different ecosystems on this hike including sagebrush steppe, open meadows and coniferous forests (pine trees). The conifers are especially beautiful in late summer when they turn red and orange from all the pollen from their cones falling off!


There are many beautiful waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park, but the LeHardy Rapids may be one of the most photographed.


The falls are located in the Hayden Valley, which is just south of Yellowstone Lake. The river flows from Soda Butte Creek through a narrow gorge and then drops into a steep canyon that has been carved by glaciers.

This area is open all year long.


Camping in Hayden Valley is one of the best ways to experience Yellowstone National Park. This location offers visitors an opportunity to see wildlife up close and personal, and it’s a great place for photographers and artists.

The Hayden Valley is located at the southern end of Yellowstone’s northern range, which is where most of the park’s elk herds are found. The valley is named after Ferdinand V. Hayden, who was one of the first explorers to travel through the area.

The Hayden Valley is home to some of the largest concentrations of wildlife in all of North America, including bison, elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, moose and bighorn sheep. Visitors can also spot wolves and grizzly bears in this area as well.

As with any other part of Yellowstone National Park that has large concentrations of wildlife, visitors should always be aware that these animals are wild animals with their own mindsets and habits. They have no fear when it comes to humans — which is why it’s so important for all visitors to follow park rules regarding safety when visiting this area!

The Main Campground in Hayden Valley are:

Canyon Campground

Canyon Campground yellowstone

“Excellent layout. Space between each campsite was generous. Every campsite had a HUGE food storage cupboard. Each tents-only loop has 2 bathrooms, numerous fresh water supply, and a dishes cleaning station. A wonderful experience!” Says Karen Le Sueur

Another camper, Taylor says,

 “Stayed at the campground. Great bathrooms with plumbing, a kitchen washing station, and a wonderful close but comfortable campground. Felt safe and knowledgeable about the surrounding area. BEAR BOX INCLUDED! Overall great place to stay for all genders! Would recommend to those traveling away from home!

Bridge Bay Campground

Bridge Bay Campground yellowstone

Aaron V, camped here in June 2022 says, “Great campground and about guaranteed to see some wildlife walking thorough/around the campsites. The first loops A-D are pretty open and not many trees or shade so prepare for that. The higher ones have some decent shade. But the view of the lake and having animals right in your camp is amazing for the whole family.”

Another camper Vojkan Dimitrijevic says, 

“Whatever I write about this place I am pretty sure it’s will be not enough! One of my favorite place on the Earth! So naturally, so peaceful, lot of animals here! You just need to respect nature and ENJOY!! In the morning we had dear “battle” in the front of our tent! LOVE THIS PLACE”

Horseback Riding

Hayden Valley is an important part of Yellowstone National Park and a great place to see wildlife. It’s also a beautiful area for horseback riding.

Horseback Riding yellowstone

Riders can explore the beauty of Hayden Valley on horseback, with the help of a guide or on their own. The trail has been designed for riders of all ages and abilities.

There are several options for tours, including horseback rides that last from one hour to several days. You can even choose to ride by yourself without a guide. It is recommended you get a guide.

As you ride along the trails with your guide, learn about the wildlife and vegetation that inhabit this beautiful wild country. You may see bison, bears and elk grazing along the way; so keep your eyes peeled for some exciting wildlife sightings!


Hayden Valley, located in the southwestern portion of Yellowstone National Park, is an excellent place to see wildlife. It is a mecca for wildlife, and a photographer’s dream. Visitors flock to the plateau and the riverbanks to look at animals like buffalo, deer, elk and more.

If you have time during your visit to Yellowstone, be sure to stop by Hayden Valley and take in the natural beauty the valley has to offer.

Is Hayden Valley worth it?

Yes, Hayden Valley is absolutely worth a visit, especially for those who have an interest in natural beauty, wildlife, and the pristine landscapes of Yellowstone National Park. As one of the most famous valleys in the park, it provides an expansive meadow, bisected by the Yellowstone River, and is renowned for its remarkable scenery and abundant wildlife. It offers visitors a chance to experience the wild heart of Yellowstone, making it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts, photographers, and anyone looking to immerse themselves in the untouched wilderness of the park.

What is Hayden Valley famous for?

Hayden Valley is most renowned for its wildlife viewing opportunities. The valley serves as a habitat for many of Yellowstone’s iconic animals, including bison, elk, and grizzly bears. Additionally, the valley’s wet meadows and meandering Yellowstone River provide an ideal setting for observing waterfowl and bird species. Its picturesque landscapes of rolling meadows and the backdrop of distant mountains also make it a favorite spot for photographers and nature lovers.

Do you drive through Hayden Valley?

Yes, visitors can drive through Hayden Valley. The Grand Loop Road, which is the main thoroughfare in Yellowstone National Park, runs through the valley, allowing visitors to experience its beauty from the comfort of their vehicles. There are several pullouts and viewing areas along the road where visitors can stop and observe the scenery and wildlife.

What is the best time to go to Hayden Valley?

The best time to visit Hayden Valley for wildlife viewing is during the early morning or late afternoon hours, as animals are most active during these times. Summer months are especially popular since the weather is pleasant and most of the park’s roads and facilities are open. However, it’s essential to note that the valley can get crowded during peak tourist season, so arriving early or visiting during the shoulder seasons (spring and fall) can help avoid larger crowds.

Are there wolves in Hayden Valley Yellowstone?

Yes, Hayden Valley is one of the areas in Yellowstone where visitors have a chance to see wolves. Since their reintroduction to the park in the mid-1990s, wolves have re-established territories, and Hayden Valley is one of their prime habitats. Early mornings are typically the best time for wolf sightings.

Where is the best place to see in Hayden Valley?

One of the best places to view the landscape and wildlife of Hayden Valley is from the several pullouts along the Grand Loop Road that offer panoramic views of the valley floor. The Grizzly Overlook and Hayden Valley overlook are particularly popular for offering elevated viewpoints, making them ideal spots for photography and wildlife watching.

How long to spend in Hayden Valley Yellowstone?

How long one should spend in Hayden Valley depends on individual interests. For those keen on wildlife watching, it’s recommended to allocate at least a few hours, especially during the early morning or late afternoon. However, visitors merely passing through and stopping at overlooks might spend around 1-2 hours.

Where can I see bears in Hayden Valley?

Hayden Valley is a known habitat for both grizzly and black bears. While there’s no guaranteed spot for bear sightings, the open meadows of the valley provide good visibility. Early mornings and late afternoons, especially during spring and early summer, are often the best times to spot bears as they might be out foraging.

Can you hike Hayden Valley Yellowstone?

While there are no official maintained trails through the heart of Hayden Valley, there are informal trails and overlooks for visitors to explore. However, hiking in the valley requires caution due to the high concentration of bears and bison. It’s always recommended to check with park rangers for safety tips and potential area closures before venturing out on foot.

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