Hike Distance: 5.4
Time to complete: 3 – 4 hours
Seasonality: May until September
Dog friendly: No
Fees and Permits: none
If you haven’t explored the southern end of the park, try the hike to Beula Lake. It’s a great introduction to this off-the-beaten-path section of Yellowstone.
The Beula Lake hike is a moderate 5.4-mile trek through the forest. There are a couple of short but steep uphill sections, but mostly the trail undulates through lodgepole pine. The final quarter mile descent puts you right on the shore of this fisherman-friendly lake.
What Makes It Great
If you’ve ever wondered what’s down the Grassy Lake Road along the southern boundary of Yellowstone, you should check out this trail. The Grassy Lake Road is an adventure in itself–it’s definitely one lane with few pull outs, but it winds through some spectacular deep meadows and willow stands. A trip early in the morning or at dusk might yield moose sightings.
Although the trailhead isn’t marked, the trail itself is well-defined. This is a quick trek–strong hikers should be able to bag this trail and still make it to the Tetons in good time. It’s a nice way to break up a road trip between the two parks.
The trail begins outside the park boundary but crosses over that invisible line at about a half mile. Because the majority of the trail lies inside Yellowstone, dogs are not allowed. You might, however, want to bring your fishing pole and park fishing license because this is one amazing fishing hole. In the early 1940s, 50,000 baby cutthroat trout were transplanted here from the then-existing Yellowstone Lake Fish Hatchery. Apparently, Beula Lake contained the perfect spawning grounds because this fishery is one of the best in the area.
Who’s Going to Love It
Beula Lake is a versatile hike–you can zip in and out for some exercise and out of the car time, take your fishing pole and spend all day, or just plan on devoting a couple hours to exploring the area and seeing a new part of the park.
Although the steep sections might be difficult for very young children, older kids will enjoy this adventure. Tennis shoes and hiking sandals are good shoe choices, there’s just enough shade not to feel completely exposed, and the mature forest is beautiful. The lake doesn’t lend itself to wading or playing–the shore line is either very marshy or heavily vegetated, so it’s difficult to actually do more than fish from a few spots along the edge.
There is a lot of lodgepole pine along this trail. As you’re walking, try to find younger trees with “knee bends,” where the trunk grows with a 90-degree bend. When the Old Faithful Inn was built in 1904, workers used these types of lodgepole pine as decorative accents in the lobby.
From Cody, take the North Fork Highway into Yellowstone. At Fishing Bridge Junction turn left onto the Grand Loop Road. Continue to West Thumb Junction where you’ll turn left and head to the South Entrance. Just two miles past the entrance you’ll see signs for Flagg Ranch, where there are bathrooms, a gas station, and a small grocery store. The Grassy Lake Road leaves from the northwest corner of the parking lot. The road is paved for the first mile but soon becomes a narrow, rather pot-holed rattle-your-teeth drive. It is passable in a sedan, but an SUV with a little ground clearance is better. The trailhead is unmarked–look for it on the right side, about 9.1 miles west, with room for three cars. When you pass the Bridger-Teton National Forest sign you’re getting close. There is a Beula Lake sign at the far back of the parking area, but you can’t see it from the road.
Be sure to either bring your annual park pass or keep your day pass in a safe place in the car because you’ll need it to re-enter Yellowstone. This can be a buggy hike much before August. Also, check Yellowstone’s backcountry situation report for possible area closures before you drive all the way down here (https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/situationreport.htm)