Time To Complete: 3.0
Seasonality: Summer, Fall
Land Website: Hiking in Yellowstone National Park
Hiking in Yellowstone National Park
Fees Permit: Yes
Park Entrance Fee
Dog Friendly: No
Destination Highlights: Swimming Hole
The hike to Grizzly Lake, while short, contains two moderate climbs. With full sun exposure, the hike to Grizzly Lake should be considered a moderate route despite its length. Grizzly Lake is a pretty lake tucked between two ridges. The trail begins in a large meadow and crosses through two small meadows along the way to the lake. Look for wildflowers in June and July. The trail and Grizzly Lake are completely surrounded by forest severely burned in the 1988 Wildfires.
What Makes It Great
Flat in the beginning, the trail crosses a small footbridge spanning Obsidian Creek and continues through a large meadow adjacent to Beaver Creek. After the meadow, the trail begins to climb through a series of switchbacks up to a ridgeline. After a short distance along the ridge, the trail drops toward the north end of the 365-acre Grizzly Lake.
The 1988 wildfires, which started out as several separate fires, joined together in one large conflagration that burned for the majority of the summer. Drought and strong winds aided the flames.
In many areas throughout the park the fires burned hot enough to kill the mature lodgepole pines but not to fell them. Many still stand, devoid of bark and branches, as eerie reminders of that fateful year.
In many western ecosystems, wildfire has played a natural role is forming the landscape for thousands of years. Lodgepole pine cones, for example, often need exposure to high temperatures to open and spread their seeds. As you hike along the trail notice the younger trees, now decades old, reaching for the sun and replacing the forest lost in the 1988 wildfires.
Who is Going to Love It
Those looking for a moderate hike away from the crowds will love Grizzly Lake. Many visitors avoid hikes through previously burned areas. Amateur and professional forest and fire ecologists will love this hike as well. Grizzly Lake demonstrates not only the devastation that a wildlfire can create, but also the resiliency of western landscapes to recover from natural, cyclical events such as wildfires.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Norris: Drive 6 miles north and park in the pullout on the west side of the road. Parking is free with an Entrance Pass.
Please respect wildlife and maintain the required distances from all Yellowstone wildlife. It is illegal to approach or remain within 100 yards of bears or wolves. All other animals must be within 25 yards.
Fishing in Yellowstone National Park requires lead-free tackle and a valid Yellowstone National Park fishing permit. Please clean all waders, boots, boats, and other fishing equipment before entering the park to reduce the spread of Aquatic Nuisance Species.
Featured image provided by Ken Lund