- Type: Hiking, Recreation
- Time to Spend: Half Day to Full Day
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One of the main reasons to visit Yellowstone is to catch a glimpse of the park's fascinating wildlife, and Hayden Valley is one of the best places to do just that. This lush valley several miles north of Yellowstone Lake is a highly visited gathering place for bison, elk, coyotes and the occasional grizzly bear, not to mention numerous bird species. While you can get a good view of the valley from the Grand Loop, you need to get out of the car for the best perspective. Hikers should check out the area's two trails: the Hayden Valley Trail runs parallel to the Yellowstone River from Yellowstone Lake to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, while the Mary Mountain Trail traces the northern edge of the valley. While you're exploring, be sure to check out some of its geothermic features, such as Mud Geyser, Sulphur Spring and Black Dragon Caldron.
The closest facilities to Hayden Valley are located a few miles south at Yellowstone Lake. If you do come across some wildlife while exploring the valley, make sure to keep your distance. Check out Yellowstone's Towns & Neighborhoods section for more safety tips. The park's official website for specific opening and closing dates of facilities, plus operating hours.