The trail to Beaver Ponds in Yellowstone is longer than listed in park literature. We clocked this loop at 5.8 miles, and there is a fair amount of climbing. That being said, we had an amazing time hiking to the beaver ponds. We were lucky enough to see two black bears, a coyote, several deer including two tiny fawns with spots, nearly a dozen elk including four huge bulls and a tiny calf, and several kinds of birds (Williamson’s sapsucker being the most notable) along the Beaver Ponds Trail.
We recommend hiking the Beaver Ponds Trail clockwise. This means parking at the south end of Mammoth near the restrooms. There is a sign for the Beaver Ponds right near the parking area that allows you to view the extinct Mammoth pools from the bottom. If you can park near there, go south around the buildings, and you’ll arrive at the trail. There is a sign with information so that you know you are in the correct place.
The discrepancy with the distance on this hike comes at this point. From that trailhead, it is 0.7 miles to the Beaver Ponds Loop in Yellowstone. The problem is, that the only way to access the loop is to hike those seven-tenths of a mile. Worse, it is a fairly steep climb for the entire way. The reason we recommend the hike in this direction, is that you can knock of that huge climb first and the rest of the trail is flat or downhill.
At 0.7 miles into the hike, the trail splits, and Beaver Ponds Loop begins. To the left is a trail called Sepulcher. Go to the right toward Beaver Ponds. The trail climbs only about 50 more meters before finally leveling out and allowing you to enjoy it.
For the next mile or so, the trail runs in and out of the shade. We saw a black bear and several elk in this area. Even though we were in the park when visitation was at an all-time high, we saw very few other hikers (in the nearly 6 miles, we passed about 5 other groups of hikers). This section of the trail was really beautiful, and even had a few lookout points where you could see the town of Mammoth spread out below you. We saw a coyote running out on one of the flats below the trail, so keep your eyes peeled.
Eventually the hike enters Montana and turns to the right. It continues east for almost a mile, and that is when it passes the Beaver Ponds. I would be really surprised to see a beaver in this area, because the ponds are pretty stagnant, and beavers generally prefer flowing water. We did pass several elk, including some large bulls, and a few white-tailed deer along the way, though.
The Beaver Ponds are a few different ponds along the trail. The final pond is the largest and most picturesque with views of the mountains in the background. When we hiked in late June, there were also lots of beautiful wildflowers along this trail.
There is a little more climbing as the trail turns south, but it is mostly in one long section, and it isn’t too steep. This part of the trail is wide open to the sun, though. If you are hiking on a clear summer day, you’ll definitely want sunscreen and a hat. We drank a lot of water, too, even though we were hiking on a pleasantly overcast day that saw a few raindrops. The trail crosses the sage flat and comes out surprisingly close to the Mammoth Hotel. Some of Mammoth’s most famous residents, the cow elk were there to greet us.
This hike pushed our limits at nearly 6 miles with a few steep sections. If you’ve got a seasoned crew with you, this hike will be just right for you, but I would wait until the kiddos are close to ten years old to give Beaver Ponds Trail in Yellowstone a try. Our kids all said this was their favorite hike, so it is worth it if the length works for your group. If you are looking for an easier family-friendly trails in Yellowstone, check out our Yellowstone Kid Hikes list.