How to Visit Hayden Valley in Yellowstone (Things to See and Do)

Buffalo on road near cars

Hayden Valley is a beautiful valley in Yellowstone. You may be wondering, “What is there to do in Hayden Valley?

Hayden Valley in Yellowstone is popular for spotting wildlife. There is no singular attraction or large parking area in Hayden Valley. It’s a large valley located on the Grand Loop Road providing expansive views and serendipitous wildlife viewing opportunities. There are occasional pullouts and small parking lots with overviews of the valley and the Yellowstone River.

Keep on reading to learn more!

Getting There

Map of Yellowstone

How Long Does it Take to Visit?

Hayden Valley takes about 15 minutes to just drive through…assuming there are no traffic jams for bison or animal watchers.

It’s common for people to just pull to the side of the road and get out to see nearby wildlife. Since there is a very small shoulder, this slows down traffic significantly. It’s also your sign to pull over and see some animals!

Map of Hayden Valley area in Yellowstone

Look for Wildlife

Buffalo herd

It’s common for people to spend hours just sitting and looking at wildlife through binoculars or a scope. We recommend bringing binoculars to enhance your experience.

It’s possible to see bears (grizzly and black), elk, and bison. There’s even a wolf pack that roams this general area.

Not sure which Yellowstone Entrance is right for you?

Download our Free Quick and Easy Guide to Yellowstone’s Entrances!


Even if you don’t see wildlife, there are a few marked pullouts that provide some nice views of the valley with the Yellowstone River running through it.

There are even some spots where you can walk to the river.

Yellowstone valley and Yellowstone River
Yellowstone River viewpoint

Mud Volcano

Mud Volcano
Mud Volcano hot springs

Mud Volcano is located on the edge of Hayden Valley and has muddy hot springs as well as fumaroles (steam vents).

There are a few nice trails in the Mud Volcano area to see the two best attractions: Dragon’s Mouth and Churning Caldron. I really enjoyed the hike through the hills to see Churning Caldron.

It’s also common to see bison roaming here since it’s so close to Hayden Valley.

Map of Mud Volcano Area
Churning Caldron
Churning Caldron
Churning Caldron

Sulphur Caldron

Located near Mud Volcano is an interesting roadside stop where you can look down upon Sulphur Caldron and the valley below.

Sulphur Caldron
Sulphur Caldron
Matt and Cheryl at Sulphur Caldron

LeHardys Rapids

LeHardys Rapids

LeHardys Rapids is one of the more underrated stops in Yellowstone. Here you can walk down to the Yellowstone River and see trout swimming upstream!

Sign at LeHardys Rapids

Mary Mountain Trailhead

For long-hikers, this 20-mile trail begins in Hayden Valley and crosses the entire Lower Loop, ending at Lower Geyser Basin on the west side of the loop.

Visiting Yellowstone Soon?

Yellowstone is confusing because it’s huge and there are so many things to do! 

Need a game plan so you don’t miss out on the best things to do in Yellowstone? Check out our itinerary

Most travelers want to visit the most popular sites and still avoid the crowds. We have a detailed itinerary that gives you a step-by-step game plan so you can get to the best places at the right times!

But that’s not all! Our itinerary includes a free audio guide to listen to while driving with over 3-hours of stories about the park!


YELLOWSTONE TRIP PLANNER: To read or watch all of our content about Yellowstone National Park, check out our Yellowstone Homepage

ENTRANCES: Yellowstone has 5 entrances: The West Entrance, the East Entrance, the Northeast Entrance, the North Entrance, and the South Entrance. Learn which entrance to Yellowstone is right for you with our Free Quick and Easy Guide

THINGS TO DO: Don’t miss all that Yellowstone has to offer including Old Faithful, the Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone Lake, Norris Geyser Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, and West Thumb and Grant’s Village

GREAT CITIES TO STAY OR CHECK OUT: Learn all about where to stay and where to camp when visiting Yellowstone and things to do in Cody, Wyoming, and other areas surrounding Yellowstone

WHERE TO EAT: Check out the best places to eat including the Old West Dinner Cookout and also where to get groceries and eat picnics in Yellowstone National Park

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Find out if you need a reservation or bear spray and binoculars, as well as tips for driving in and flying to Yellowstone 

WATCH: Enjoy videos of gorgeous Yellowstone National Park while learning our best tips for visiting by watching our Yellowstone YouTube Playlist


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