mammoth hot springs

Mammoth Hot Springs is one of the more popular areas in Yellowstone National Park. The park headquarters are located in Mammoth, which is the largest village inside Yellowstone.

Mammoth offers abundant wildlife (particularly elk, which roam the streets), a unique and massive geological feature, history, lodging, restaurants, and even a clinic!

Welcome to my mom’s favorite area in Yellowstone!

What is Mammoth Hot Springs?

Mammoth Hot Springs is both a city and a geological formation.

Mammoth Hot Springs City

Technically known as Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District, is a little village of housing for park employees.

The park headquarters are located in Mammoth. Many of the administrative buildings are part of Fort Yellowstone, which was once used by the US Army when it patrolled the park in the early days to prevent poaching and theft of geological formations.

It also has a clinic (which we had to use once!), a post office, a gas station, and a chapel.

map of mammoth hot springs

Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces

The Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces are unique in the park. They kind of look like an inside-out cave.

It is a huge formation of travertine terraces that start on the hill overlooking the city and descend down to the town. Water bubbles up from below, then cascades down the terraces in one of the more scenic geothermal areas of the park.

Watch this video to get a much better feel for Mammoth and Northern Yellowstone

Things to do in Mammoth Hot Springs

Here’s our ranked list of things to do in Mammoth, with our rankings in parenthesis (3 is best).

Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces ***

woman and mammoth hot springs

This is the premier feature in the area. It is composed of two loops: the Upper Terraces and the Lower Terraces.

The Upper Terraces consists mostly of a scenic drive through geothermal formations (geysers) such as Orange Spring Mounds and Angel Terrace.

mammoth hot springs

To see the Lower Terraces, you can park above or below the terraces and walk on a boardwalk. The best way is to park above the terraces and walk to the bottom, using someone in your party as the shuttle to pick you up below. Otherwise, you’ll climb back to where you started.

teddy roosevelt and liberty cap

The Lower Terraces are where you see the cascading travertine terraces. You’ll also get nice views of the town below, as well as mountain peaks surrounding the area. At the bottom, you’re greeted by the famous and quirky Liberty Cap.

Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District ***

family eating picnic

I rate this 3 stars mostly due to the huge numbers of elk that roam the area. We often eat a picnic in town and just observe the elk.

There are other things to see and do, but watching the elk is by far the best thing to do.

September is the elk rut when the males try to establish their dominance. It’s a fireworks show as they fight with other elk and even innocent cars driving by!

elk

Grab some food, pull up a chair, and enjoy the Mammoth elk!

Visitor Center *

The Albright Visitor Center is located in a historic Fort Yellowstone building.

As a general rule, Yellowstone visitor centers are not on par with other national parks. That’s because with 5 entrances and a massive park, it didn’t make sense to make one great visitor center, as most parks do.

The park decided early on to create smaller visitor centers spread throughout the park.

Old Faithful probably has the best visitor center, followed by Mammoth. But neither are necessary to visit.

Fort Yellowstone *

When the park was first created, there was no such thing as a National Park Service or even park rangers to oversee the park. Because it was the first national park in the world, they were learning on the fly.

Two major problems surfaced early on: poachers killed wildlife, and tourists stole pieces of the geothermal features.

So the government assigned the US Army to oversee the park. The Army constructed Fort Yellowstone.

Today, most of the buildings are residential or administrative, so it isn’t all that interesting to walk around the Fort.

However, there is a graveyard (just don’t go digging in it!), and the National Park Service (NPS) has created an audio walking tour of the fort. Download the official NPS App to access the audio tour.

Near Mammoth

There are a few places of interest located near Mammoth.

Golden Gate Canyon **

Though mostly a drive-through, this is a scenic little canyon that was the subject of one of the first paintings of Yellowstone.

It’s located south of Mammoth as you drive towards Norris.

painting of canyon
Early painting of Golden Gate Canyon; painting located in Cody, WY at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West

A bonus is a little waterfall called Rustic Falls, where you can park to see the waterfall and look back at the canyon.

Undine Falls **

waterfall

This is another quick stop. Park and take a short walk to a viewpoint where you can see Undine Falls, a very tall, cascading waterfall.

Like most other waterfalls in the park (especially the ones located right on the Grand Loop Road), you’re looking down at the falls, rather than up.

Gardiner, Montana **

roosevelt arch
Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, MT

Gardiner, Montana directly borders the North Entrance to Yellowstone. It has the Roosevelt Arch, Boiling River, many places to stay and eat, and many adventure companies that offer river rafting, horseback rides, and more.

I’ve devoted an entire article to Gardiner and the North Entrance.

Hiking

There are some popular hikes near Mammoth, though I haven’t done them yet, so I can’t give them a rating.

NOTE: This is bear country. Black Bears frequent this area often, so bring bear spray and know how to use it!

Bunsen Peak and Osprey Falls

Bunsen Peak and Osprey Falls Trails are the most popular. These are intersecting trails that offer different trailheads and various ways to mix and match the hike to your liking, including out-and-back, loops, and even shuttling (start in one place, end in another, as long as you have a driver).

Bunsen Peak trail is also one of several in the park where you can ride a bike!

The hiking or biking trails start at about 5 miles but can be extended.

Lava Creek Canyon

Lava Creek Canyon is another trail that begins in Mammoth and ends at Undine Falls. Unless you have a driver to provide a shuttle, you’ll have to return, making the entire hike about 7 miles.

Beaver Ponds Trail

Beaver Ponds Trail is a 5-mile loop that begins and ends in Mammoth. As the name indicates, you will see some ponds. However, you’re not likely to see beavers.

Where is Mammoth Hot Springs located?

Mammoth is the very northernmost area in Yellowstone National Park, located only about 10 minutes away from Gardiner, Montana.

What is the closest entrance?

The closest entrance to Mammoth is the North Entrance. The North Entrance literally borders the town of Gardiner, Montana.

It is the second most popular entrance to the park. Most people who enter the North Entrance fly into Bozeman, Montana for their Yellowstone vacation, but it’s also a popular entrance for those coming from the Northwest or the northern midwest on road trips.

Where to stay in Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth only has one place for lodging: Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins.

All Yellowstone lodging is mostly rustic, with no TV or internet. They also have no air conditioning, but with average daytime temps around 80 degrees in the summer, A/C isn’t needed.

Mammoth Hotel was the first stop for all the early park visitors, and as such is more “luxury” than many of the others. They even have Hot Tub Cabins you can stay in.

elk
Elk roaming in front of the Mammoth Hotel

The Mammoth Hotel is unique in that it is one of only two park hotels open in the winter. That’s because the northern road is the only road plowed year-round, accommodating those who want to see the wolves of Lamar Valley, snowshoe, ski, or snowmobile.

For more, see When is the Best Time to Visit Yellowstone?

To book a stay at the Mammoth Hotel, see the Xanterra website.

See my North Entrance article for more about lodging in the Gardiner area, as well as Where should you stay when visiting Yellowstone?

Where to camp in Mammoth Hot Springs

There is one campground at Mammoth Hot Springs. Unlike many other campgrounds in the park, it is administered by Yellowstone, not by Xanterra. It has 85 sites.

Here again, the Mammoth Campground is unusual in that it is open year-round. It also offers some larger RV accommodations. It is reservable from May to October, and first-come, first-served the rest of the year.

To book a campsite, visit recreation.gov.

Where to eat in Mammoth Hot Springs

Food in Mammoth ranges from snacks to fine dining. Almost all of them are in the Mammoth Hotel.

For more information about these, see the Xanterra website, as well as our Yellowstone Dining Guide.

Also remember that there are plenty of places to eat in Gardiner, Montana. See our North Entrance article for more.

Need help planning your itinerary?

If you really want to make planning your trip a breeze, download our must-have Yellowstone Itinerary. It contains detailed information about Yellowstone and how to see it in a very effective manner. It even comes with three hours of audio to help you learn fascinating information about the park.

Yellowstone Resources to Read