OverviewThe Twin Buttes are two relatively low but prominent points near the western edge of the Yellowstone caldera. There are no maintained trails on the Buttes, but a maintained trail to nearby Imperial Geyser leaves only approximately 1/2 mile of easy cross country hiking to reach the western butte. From the summits are views of much of the Madison Plateau of western Yellowstone, although on the day of our hike the skies were somewhat smoky from nearby forest fires, limiting visibility.
A benchmark was located on the southwest butte, and a small summit cairn was located on the northeast butte.
The Southwest Butte is the slightly higher of the two summits, with an elevation of 7,923 feet. There is no benchmark on the Northwest Butte, for which the GPS gave a reading of 7,869 feet.
Getting ThereYellowstone National Park occupies the northwest corner of Wyoming, as well as small portions of southern Montana and eastern Idaho. There are five major roads entering the park:
The North entrance at Gardiner Montana is the only entrance which remains open during the winter. Refer to the Operating Hours & Seasons page for complete details on road opening and closing dates in the park.
West Entrance - Highway 20 through West Yellowstone, MT
North Entrance - Highway 89 through Gardiner, MT
Northeast Entrance - Highway 212 through Cooke City, MT
East Entrance - Highway 20 through Cody, WY
South Entrance - Highway 89 through Grand Teton NP
Additional information can be found on the Yellowstone Plan Your Visit web page.
Red TapeYellowstone Entry Fees
Entering Yellowstone National Park requires purchase of a $25 7-day pass, available at any of the five entry stations entering the park. This pass allows entry into both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park to the south. Alternatively, an annual America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass may be purchased for $80. This pass provides access to, and use of, Federal recreation sites that charge an entrance or amenity Fee, for a period of one year.
A backcountry camping permit is required for all overnight trips into the Yellowstone backcountry. Backcountry camping permits may be reserved in advance for a $20 fee. Backcountry permits may also be obtained on a walk-in basis, (subject to availability) no more than 48 hours prior to the hike - there is no charge for walk-in permits.
Permits may be obtained from most ranger stations in the park. When picking up backcountry permits you will be required to view a short video on regulations and safe travel in the Yellowstone backcountry. The Yellowstone Backcountry Camping & Hiking page contains complete details and regulations on backcountry trips in the park.
CampingThere are numerous options for camping within Yellowstone National Park. Regulations and available facilities varies among the campgrounds. Visit the Campgrounds in Yellowstone page for complete details.
There are also a number of lodging facilities within the park, ranging from rustic cabins to luxurious lodges and inns. Lodging in Yellowstone is administered by Xanterra Parks & Resorts, the primary concessioner in Yellowstone. Refer to their website for complete details on locations, reservations, etc.
The campground nearest to the Twin Buttes is Madison Campground.
Bear PrecautionsBoth grizzly and black bears are found in the park. Several of the most important precautions for safe travel in bear country include the following:
Visit Yellowstone's Your Safety in Bear Country web page for additional information on hiking in bear country.
When to ClimbSnow free climbing of the Twin Buttes Peak can be found during a fairly limited timeframe from approximately June through September, although this may vary considerably depending on weather conditions.
via Imperial GeyserDue to the somewhat remote nature of these peaks, I've elected to post a route description in the main page, rather than a separate route. Other routes certainly exist, so feel free to post them and I will modify this section accordingly.
There are no maintained trails on the peaks, but the route to be followed is obvious, and will be in clear view at all times. Route finding will not be an issue when ascending the Twin Buttes.
The Buttes are oriented in a southwest-northeast fashion. Either Butte could be climbed first, but from Imperial Geyser the northeast Butte is not visible, therefore the route below describes ascending the southwest Butte first.
UTM coordinates appear in blue.
via Imperial Geyser
From the Fairy Falls trailhead (12 T 0513301E 4929185N), walk north along the old dirt road for approximate 1.0 miles, where the trail to Fairy Falls and Imperial Geyser departs on the west. Before reaching this junction, a worthwhile side-trip can be made by hiking a short way up the hill to the left, giving a very nice view looking down on Grand Prismatic Spring just to the east.
Where the trail leave the dirt road, hike west for ±1.5 miles through a young but very dense lodgepole forest to Fairy Falls (12 T 0510384E 4929998N), where Fairy Creek plunges 197 feet over cliffs to the south. Just prior to reaching Fairy Falls, the Twin Buttes will come into view to the northwest.
Fairy Falls is a worthy destination itself, and is the objective of the majority of the foot traffic to be found on this trail.
From Fairy Falls, follow the trail north for ± 0.4 miles to Imperial Geyser (12 T 0509895E 4930726N), which erupts almost continuously.
At Imperial Geyser the southwest Twin (higher of the two buttes) will be clearly visible to the northwest. Begin cross country travel and head straight for the summit (12 T 0509417E 4931384N). The climb is moderately steep, but the hiking difficulty will never exceed class 2. The southwest twin lies ±0.51 miles and ±600 vertical feet from Imperial Geyser.
The second twin (12 T 0509887E 4931892N) is located approximately 0.43 miles to the northeast. Descend to the saddle between the summits, then ascend the west ridge of the northeast twin.
From the northeast twin, descend back to the saddle between the peaks, then south down to the basin containing several small lily pad-covered lakes. Continue west and south past the lakes, then down a short hill to Imperial Geyser, where the maintained trail can be followed back to the trailhead.
Round-trip hiking distance - ±7.3 miles
Elevation gain - ±900 feet