Hiking in the Lake Area of Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone Lake is located near the center of Yellowstone National Park. With it’s 141 miles of shoreline, 136 square miles of surface area, and over 450 ft in depth, Yellowstone Lake is the largest alpine lake in North America above 7,000 feet in elevation. The lake area is home to the native Yellowstone cutthroat trout, grizzly bears, wolves, bison, moose, elk and many more animals. Hiking in the lake area of Yellowstone is the best way to see this magnificent body of water. There are several Yellowstone hiking trails to enjoy while exploring the region.
Storm Point Trail
The Storm Point trail starts overlooking Indian Pond, which was created approximately 3,000 years ago by a hydrothermal explosion. BOOM! What an explosive start to the hike. Indian Pond is frequented by different types of waterfowl as well as other critters like bison and bald eagles.
The Storm Point Trail begins in an open meadow. As you work your way south on the trail, the route takes you into the forest for a short jaunt. Eventually, you'll start heading towards the north shore of Yellowstone Lake and to Storm Point itself. Keep your eyes open in the rocky areas around the point for a chance to see yellow-bellied marmots basking in the sun. The views from Storm Point are absolutely stunning.
Once you've had your fill of amazing views of the lake, head along the shore to the west, and eventually back into the woods. This loop allows for different views a majority of the time. You'll eventually meet back with the stem of the trail and your vehicle at the trailhead. The Storm Point Trail in Yellowstone is a perfect hike for children, beginners, and young families looking to stretch their legs. For a more educational experience, ranger led hikes are available at Storm Point.
Storm Point in Yellowstone Hiking Trail Info:
Distance: 1.5 miles (2.4 KM)
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Trail Rating: Easy
Trail Type: Loop
Directions to the Storm Point Trailhead: Look for the pull outs on the south side of the road about 3 miles east of the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center.
Elephant Back Trail
The Elephant Back Trail in Yellowstone is the most popular hike around Lake Village. For starters, it's a loop and people love loop trails. Loop trails allow hikers to finish at the starting point while getting a different view the entire time. You don't have to find a shuttle and they're very convenient.
The Elephant Back Trail starts with an incline through the unburned lodgepole pine forest. Just under a mile (0.8), the trail splits and forms a loop. The trail on the left is the fastest way to the top, but both go to the overlook. The overlook offers sweeping views of Yellowstone Lake, Pelican Valley, and the Absaroka Mountains to the east. Retrace your steps or take the other route to the bottom, completing the loop.
Although this is a popular trail, grizzly bears do frequent the area. Be sure to make noise, travel in groups, and have bear spray. Bear attacks on people are rare. Don’t let animals deter you from enjoying the wilderness and hiking in Yellowstone.
Elephant Back Trail Hiking Trail Info:
Distance: 4 miles (6.5 KM)
Elevation Gain: 800 feet
Trail Rating: Moderate
Trail Type: Loop
Directions to the Elephant Back Trailhead: Look for the pull outs on the west side of the road about 1 mile south of the Fishing Bridge intersection. From Lake Village drive north less than .5 miles to the trailhead.
Avalanche Peak Trail
Avalanche Peak in Yellowstone is a popular summit. The Avalanche Peak Trail is not for the faint of heart (or lungs), but is totally worth it! The trail gains over 2,100 feet in 2.5 miles. Avalanche Peak is located in the Absaroka Mountains. Absaroka is a Crow or Native American word that translates to “children of the large beaked bird”. The Absaroka Mountains are a huge mountain range and considered one of the largest sub-ranges in the Rocky Mountains. The summit of Avalanche Peak is 10,566 feet.
The route begins at the west end of Eleanor Lake at the picnic area. The start of the hike enters the forest and heads straight uphill. This area of Yellowstone is home to large populations of white bark pine trees. White bark pine (Pinus albicaulis) can be identified by its clusters of five needles. The seeds from the white bark pine are a major food source for grizzly bears. The seeds are high in fat and nutrients, as they bulk up for their upcoming hibernation in the fall/winter.
Continue ascending up the steep trail. Unfortunately, switchbacks are limited on this hike. At 1¼ miles you'll end up in a giant amphitheater or large mountainous bowl. From here, it's the last push to the summit. Dig deep and hike on. At the top of the mountain you'll be rewarded with amazing views of Yellowstone Lake, the Absaroka Mountains, and witness the vastness of the Yellowstone ecosystem. The summit of Avalanche Peak offers one of the best views in all of the park.
Take your time on the summit, snap lots of photos, enjoy the scenery, have lunch, and bask in the personal accomplishment. Avalanche Peak is no easy feat. Carefully follow the path down to the bottom. Remember the descent can be more challenging than the climb to the top. Watch your footing along the trail as there are many exposed roots and loose rock.
Avalanche Peak Trail Info:
Distance: 4.2 miles (6.7 KM)
Elevation Gain: 2,100 ft
Trail Rating: Difficult
Trail Type: Out and Back
Notes: Recommend doing this hike when the weather is clear and nice. Be sure to have plenty of water as refill spots can be limited.
Directions to the Avalanche Peak Trail: From Fishing Bridge drive about 19 miles east or about 8 miles west of the East Entrance.
Other great hikes in the Canyon region not listed in the blog post are Pelican Valley, Natural Bridge, 9 Mile Trail, and many more. We recommend checking in with the nearest Visitor Center or Backcountry Office in Yellowstone for up to date trail information. If wanting to explore the area with a local, a guided hike of Yellowstone is a great option. For more information on exploring Yellowstone, give us a call (406-599-2960) or send an email. Hope to see you on the trail. Happy hiking!!!