Pelican Valley Loop – 16.7mi / 26.8km
This level loop explores the broad meadows surrounding Pelican Creek as it lazily snakes through the Pelican Valley. To decrease human disturbance on grizzly bears in the area, this is a time restricted, day use only trail, so be ready to hit the trail at 9am to be done before 7pm.
The trail breaks out into a nice, open meadow and heads straight for a stand of trees. It wanders through these lodgepole pines for a bit and enters into the meadows of the wonderful Pelican Valley. These will be the last trees you’ll hike through until your return trip.
From here, the trail travels along a bench on the south side of Pelican Creek, looking down onto the creek. Stay alert as bison frequent this area and, with the gently rolling terrain, can seemingly come out of nowhere. Continuing left, past the Turbid Lake Trail junction, the trail wraps its way north and down to the creek. Waterfowl, shorebirds, and raptors are common birds in this valley. There are a few marshy sections of trail throughout this hike, particularly in this area.
You’ll come the trail junction that is the beginning of the large loop around the valley. A dilapidated bridge demarks the creek ford you’ll take on your return trip as you complete the loop. Continue straight on the southeast side of the creek to do the loop counterclockwise along the eastern edge of the meadows. As you skirt the edge of the forest, the trail gently goes up and down the ridges that finger down into the drainage. The trail eventually leaves the creek and heads across the meadow toward a patrol cabin.
From the junction at the cabin, take the trail west as it traverses along the trees. A little hydrothermal area to the north reminds you that you’re in Yellowstone. The trail continues on towards Raven Creek where a creek ford awaits. Look for a good spot to cross this muddy bottomed creek, then head straight across the meadow toward the trees. The trail is difficult to find in this section through the meadows. Look for the most prominent grassy knoll that juts out from the wooded ridge and head in that direction. Keep an eye out for orange markers on trees to make sure you’re on the right path. Once at the treeline again, follow it and the subsequent markers to make your way across a feeder stream. (Don’t get confused by markers denoting the trail leading up the valley to the lookout on Pelican Cone.) The trail wraps west and becomes more prominent. It eventually joins up with the more heavily used Pelican Creek Trail.
The trail leads to Pelican Creek where another ford awaits, but a couple logs may be there to help you cross over. The trail resumes traversing the hillside, looking down onto the valley. Be alert through this area as there are frequent marshy sections and grazing bison. The trail eventually takes you back to the dilapidated bridge where a wide, but easy fording of Pelican Creek awaits. On the other side of the creek crossing, you join back up with the Pelican Valley Trail and head back to your car.
Trailhead: Located east of Fishing Bridge on the East Entrance Road, take the dirt road labeled Pelican Valley just east of Indian Pond to the parking lot at the end. The road is closed in the spring for bear management.
Elevation Gain: 700ft / 210m – Elevation Loss: 700ft / 210m