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Howard Eaton Trail: Fishing Bridge - Canyon

Intermediate
 3.5 (4)

A nice trail along the Yellowstone River and through Hayden Valley, but never far from the highway.


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Map Key

14.3

Miles

23.0

KM

Point to Point

7,905' 2,410 m

High

7,692' 2,344 m

Low

743' 227 m

Up

743' 226 m

Down

2%

Avg Grade (1°)

19%

Max Grade (11°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

This is prime grizzly country! Check for closures before heading out. If you see a bear, stay at least 100 yards away. You'll see buffalo on this trail; stay at least 25 yards away. Buffalo are always dangerous, but by August, rutting season begins and the bulls become extra feisty.

Description

This 14.3-mile section of the Howard Eaton Trail from Fishing Bridge to Canyon is one of the few remaining pieces of the historic trail. Autos arrived in Yellowstone in 1916, and it was quickly apparent horses and cars did not mix. To accommodate saddle-horses, a 157-mile trail following the main highway was cobbled together in 1923 and named for the "Dean" of Yellowstone saddle-horse guides.

The trail begins just east of the Fishing Bridge and travels along the river, passing the remains of lodging accommodations. At one time, Fishing Bridge had cabins and a NPS campground (in addition to the current facilities). To protect archeological sites and grizzly-bear habitat and as part of an agreement to build Grant Village, the cabins and NPS campground were removed.

The trail follows the river and a service road for 0.8 miles, then veers off the road to the left and follows the Yellowstone. Watch for waterfowl for the next mile or so, including white pelican and trumpeter swan. You may also see an osprey or bald eagle circling above looking for a fat cutthroat trout. Fishermen use this trail to reach them as well.

At 2.2 miles, the trail leaves the river and climbs the first of numerous hills you'll face. At 3.9 miles, the trail breaks out for a nice overview of LeHardy’s Rapids. This lovely rapids was named for a member of the 1873 Jones Expedition whose raft was lost in the rapids. From here on, the highway is rarely out of sight or hearing distance. Many use the overlook as a turn-around point.

The trail continues up and down through the forest, breaking out at the 6-mile mark and passing Nez Perce Ford (a shallow place in the river historically used by native Americans to cross) and the Mud Volcano Area (across the river). At 6.8 miles, the trail enters Hayden Valley, Yellowstone's largest (23,000 acres).

About 14,000 years ago, glacial ice blocked the Yellowstone's northern flow, causing water to back up and cover the valley. Fine sand, silt and clay accumulated at the bottom of the lake. The glaciers receded and the lake drained, leaving the poor soil that is the reason Hayden Valley exists.

The trail may be hard to find in the open meadows. Just continue north along the edge of the valley near the treeline and you'll eventually be back on trail. At 11.6 miles, turn left at the junction with Sour Creek Trail and ford Sour Creek (which is usually knee-deep by mid July). The trail continues another 2.7 miles and ends near the Chittenden Bridge.

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

Good chance to see buffalo, elk, and waterfowl. Also chances to see grizzly, especially early in the summer.

Contacts

Shared By:

Tom Carter

Trail Ratings

  3.5 from 4 votes

#22958

Overall
  3.5 from 4 votes
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Trail Rankings

#424

in Wyoming

#22,958

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2,104 Since Sep 9, 2015
Intermediate

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Photos

The trail meanders through fields and forests as it approaches Fishing Bridge.
May 29, 2022 near Lake Vi…, WY
The trail makes its way through an area that is still recovering from the 1989 fire. Be ready to have to climb over downed trees through this section.  Its also exposed, so make sure to have hat, water, and sunscreen.
May 29, 2022 near Lake Vi…, WY
Looking back down Hayden Valley. You are never far from the road, but you seem to be far away from the people.
May 29, 2022 near Lake Vi…, WY
LeHardy Rapids from the Howard Eaton Trail gives you a different perspective of these rapids.
May 29, 2022 near Lake Vi…, WY
The trail rises and falls as it makes its way through Hayden Valley.
May 29, 2022 near Canyon…, WY
Hiking the Howard Eaton Trail puts you on the other side of the Yellowstone River, giving you a different perspective from those who stay on the Grand Loop Road.
May 29, 2022 near Canyon…, WY

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Check-Ins

Aug 5, 2021
Penny Siperly
14.3mi — 12h 30m
Aug 19, 2020
Richard Van Straten
Aug 4, 2020
Doug B
Out and back to L'hardy Rapids. Very nice easy stroll. 7.8mi
Jul 1, 2020
Richard Van Straten
with Wendy 14.3mi
Jul 10, 2019
L D
8mi — 10h 24m
Aug 16, 2018
Vince Teixeira
9.9mi
May 15, 2018
Thais Allen
Jul 10, 2017
David Bodine