Day Hikes Near Madison


Purple Mountain
Harlequin Lake
Two Ribbons Trail

Day hiking in Yellowstone provides an ideal opportunity for people of all ages to get out and experience the park’s many wonders away from the crowds. Thousands of miles of trails await, and wildlife sightings are nearly always guaranteed. Those planning a day trip into Yellowstone’s wilderness are encouraged to stop by a ranger station or visitor’s center for trail maps and the latest information regarding weather, animal activity, and trail closures. The following trails are available in the Madison Area, and all hikers are reminded to stay on the trail.

Purple Mountain
Distance: 6 miles (10 km) roundtrip
Climb: moderate to steep
Difficulty: moderate
Location: The trailhead is located on the Madison-Norris Road just 0.25 miles north of Madison Junction.

Featuring an elevation gain of 1,500 feet, the Purple Mountain Trail leads hikers to spectacular overlooks of the lower Gibbon Valley, Firehole Valley, and the Madison Junction area. The trail passes through a partially burned forest and does require a moderate level of fitness to complete.

Harlequin Lake
Distance: 1 mile (1 km) roundtrip
Climb: gentle
Difficulty: easy
Location: The trailhead is located on the West Entrance Road 1.5 miles west of the Madison Campground.

Drawing its name from rare sightings of Harlequin ducks, the Harlequin Lake Trail is a quick and easy escape from Yellowstone’s crowds. The trail gently wanders through stands of lodgepoles scorched in the 1988 fires and ends at Harlequin Lake. Waterfowl sightings are common, and the trail is appropriate for people of all ages and hiking abilities.

Two Ribbons Trail
Distance: 1.5 miles (2 km) roundtrip
Climb: level
Difficulty: easy
Location: The unmarked trailhead is situated 5 miles east of the park’s West Entrance near a large pullout area lined with roadside exhibits.

Visitors can learn more about the 1988 Yellowstone fires with this short boardwalk tour. The trail travels through a collage of burned trees and brush now dotted with traces of new green growth. Although no interpretive signs are found along the boardwalk, the trail’s scenery clearly illustrates the cycle of fire, destruction, and renewal.

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