This 18-mile (29 km) trail that climbs gradually over 3,500 feet, begins about a mile east at the Yellowstone Picnic Area, ends near the confluence of the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek, and provides a good chance of seeing bison, elk, bear, and pronghorn. This can be a difficult hike as the trail seems to almost disappear at points, and the trek requires crossing the Lamar River near the end of the trail at the 16.2-mile mark, which is usually unfordable until late July or early August. All these factors should be considered before venturing out on this trail.
At around one mile into the hike you junction with Yellowstone River Overlook Trail. We recommend you take a quick little detour on the Overlook Trail to a beautiful view of the Yellowstone River and Tower Creek, which is seen flowing into it. After returning to Specimen Ridge Trail it continues to climb and soon provides a view of the distal end of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Of note to anglers is that at about 2.5 miles into the hike, you encounter the Agate Creek Trailhead which is used for access to some prime fishing on the Yellowstone River. The trail to the river drops nearly 1300 feet to the river.
The Specimen Ridge Trail continues to climb, passing through open wildflower-filled meadows and periodic large boulders or “glacial erratics” transported from the north by glaciers. At nearly the 6-mile mark you will cross over Agate Creek and continue climbing through open meadows until you reach the highest point of this hike, Amethyst Mountain at just over 9,600 feet.
The downward slope of the trail now begins and at the 11-mile mark, you find yourself hiking along a steep cliff and presented with distant but beautiful views of the valley where Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek join. At the 12-mile mark, the trail curves left, loses elevation quickly, and declines 2,400 feet along Unnamed Creek until you reach Lamar River at 16.2 miles into the trail. This is where you must ford the river or turn back if deemed too risky. Once having crossed the Lamar River you will travel 1.5 miles across the flat, sagebrush-covered Lamar Valley to a bridged crossing of Soda Butte Creek before reaching your destination.