Hayden Valley is very precious in Yellowstone and it is centrally located in the Yellowstone National Park. It is most famous for wildlife watching. And there are many turnouts in this park that offer amazing views on both sides of the road. You can park your vehicles to see a better view of the valley.
You will have to start with the scenic drive through the Grand Loop Road south between Yellowstone Lake and the Canyon Village. The valley is located in the high rocky alpine that straddles the Yellowstone River. The Hayden Valley occupies almost 50 square miles of the valley floor and it was an ancient lake bed from the time when Yellowstone Lake was larger. If you wish to see the wildlife at a leisurely pace, the Hayden Valley is the best one.
Most attractive things to do in Hayden Valley
Upper Yellowstone River
The Yellowstone River meanders through the Hayden Valley. The large open area of grassy plains resembles the wide-open area of yesteryear along with the sloping hills and it is covered by ranges of the jagged mountain peaks. Spend your time well with your friends and family. There are many pullouts along the road where you can stop and look for bears, wolves, and other animals using binoculars. Before you plan your trip, you check with some good spotting scope, binoculars, and the telescope lens of your camera. Sometimes you can spot a herd of animals around the hills. If you are planning for a trip to see wildlife, Hayden Valley is the best place to visit them.
Hiking the Hayden Valley
There is something which is magical about Yellowstone National Park. Whether you have been once or many times, the magic will draw you back in and you will find something new each and every time.
Hayden Valley Trail is one of the most popular trails in this park. It is about a 13.6-mile point-to-point trail. It is best in the summer months. Make sure to have waterproof hiking shoes to hike through the muddy and swampy hiking trails. You will have to bring a quality trekking stick which will be helpful. And always remember to bring a refillable water bottle filled with water to quench your thirst. Bison can be seen in this area. If you see any bison, just step off and maintain a good distance so as not to aggravate them.
Hiking the Howard Eaton Trail
Howard Eaton Trail is located parallel to the Yellowstone River from Yellowstone Lake to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It is about a 14.3-mile point-to-point trail which is best from the month of June to September. This trail can be muddy in some places, so you will have to carry waterproof hiking shoes and waterproof socks for traveling through the sour creek. This hike is said to be moderate but there is some elevation gain which offers beautiful views of the Yellowstone River and Hayden Valley. This trail follows the old Yellowstone road which was used in the 1900s for about a mile near the fishing bridge.
Hiking the Mary Mountain Trail
Hiking from Mary Mountain Trail as an out and going back to Mary Mountain Lake, it is about a 20-mile hike through the valley to the lake. Looking at the trailhead, it is located to the north of the Alum Creek pullout. You can also combine this trail with the Nez Perce Trail for about a 20-mile hike point to point that ends at the Old Faithful area. The trail is mostly through the grassland or meadows which is very easy to follow. If you go through the Nez Perce trail, you will have to travel through the forest and also follow the Nez Perce Creek. This hike is a long day hike and so you will have to start early. You might also see the bison along the way.
You can also take a drive to the Grand Loop Road through the valley which is really a beautiful drive. Stop at the turnouts and walk along the river to see a large cutthroat trout in the clear waters.
Visit the Lehardy Rapids
This is a brief stop on the Grand Loop Road which is located just before the Mud Volcano. There is a small parking area that follows the short trail along a boardwalk and it takes you to the rapids on the Yellowstone River. You might see a bison herd along your path or see an otter fishing for breakfast. This is an amazing place for photography.
Mud Volcano and Sulfur Cauldron
The Mud Volcano is a geothermal area with many muddy hot springs and fumaroles. Hydrogen sulfide flows out with steam continuously. Blue pools of boiling water overflow through the steaming vents, ejecting hydrogen sulfide into the air. The mud volcano stream and the gushes are attractive. It is kind of hypnotic to watch the mud bubble. Dragon’s Mouth Springs boiling water bubbles as a dragon’s breath continuously ejects steam from the cave.
If you move across the road, you will find Sulfur Cauldron. There is nothing much here but you can stop as you travel towards Yellowstone Lake. Sulfur Cauldron is the park/s most acidic hot springs that reach 190 degrees. We can smell it before we see it and many will skip this place because of the limited parking and the place is close to the road. And this place is one of the active areas in Yellowstone National Park.
Best campsites near Hayden Valley
There are many campsites in Yellowstone National Park. But when you choose the campground that is close to the Hayden Valley, there are possibilities to see the wolves howling in your backyard or seeing the partial view of that grizzly which you wanted to see for years. The campgrounds are:
- Canyon Village Area Campground– This campground is located at the northern end of the Hayden valley and is also not so far from the Yellowstone River’s Grand Canyon. You can choose from 270 campsites. This campground offers all the accessibilities like laundry, potable water, dumpsite, hot showers, toilets, etc. And it is easily accessible to Hayden Valley.
Cost: $32.00 per night
- Bridge Bay Campground– This is the largest campground in the park which is near the southern end of the Hayden Valley. It is located near Yellowstone Lake and you can choose from 400 campsites. They offer potable water, a dump station, and toilets.
Cost: $27.00 per night