Hike Distance: 9.2 miles – 14 miles

Difficulty: 2-3

Time to complete: 3 – 10 hours

Seasonality: May until September

Dog friendly: No

Fees and Permits: none

Intro

Shoshone Lake is Yellowstone’s second largest lake, and the only way to get there is by small boat or on foot. The Dogshead Loop Trail is the perfect way to explore this seldom seen gem.

Summary

Shoshone Lake is Yellowstone’s second largest lake, and the only way to get there is by small boat or on foot. The Dogshead Loop Trail is the perfect way to explore this seldom seen gem.

If you want to visit Shoshone Lake but don’t want to battle the crowds on the popular DeLacy Creek Trail, take the Dogshead Loop. It’s 11.5 miles if you do it as a loop connecting with the Lewis Channel Trail, but there are a couple other options. You can hike just the Channel Trail out and back at 14 miles, or you can hike just the Dogshead Trail (9.2 miles round trip) if you want quicker access to the lake. No matter which way you get there, experiencing Shoshone Lake is worth the effort.

What Makes It Great

The southern end of Yellowstone below Grant Village is an underused section of the park. Most visitors use the South Entrance road as a migration corridor. Folks heading south have their sights set on Grand Teton National Park. Those heading north are making beelines for the “cool stuff” like the geyser basins or the wildlife valleys.

All those vehicles flying past means the trails (especially the longer ones) in this section aren’t as crowded as other parts of the park. The Dogshead Loop lets you enjoy some of the best of Yellowstone’s backcountry plus you might have it all to yourself.

Walking along the Lewis Channel is the best part of this hike. Just past the trailhead, Lewis Lake sparkles in the sun and provides the perfect foreground for views of the Grand Teton. Heading west you soon come to the river channel which is so calm it looks like part of the bigger lake. The trail gets you right along the edge so you can experience the serenity.

This portion of the hike is flat and you can make some good time. When you reach the end of the Lewis Channel trail you’ll see the Outlet Patrol Cabin and Shoshone Lake. The lake is a stunning crystal clear basin surrounded by wooded peaks. Driftwood along the shore offers a perfect spot for lunch. Shoshone Lake’s claim to fame is that it’s the largest lake in the continental United States without a road to it. Spend some time listening to the silence.

Who’s Going to Love It

Anyone who doesn’t want to backpack but is looking to experience Yellowstone’s true backcountry will enjoy this hike. The Lewis River Channel is one of the park’s unique lesser known features. You’ll wish you’d brought an inflatable kayak so you could be quietly paddling between pelicans and the water lilies.

Although this is a long trail, there’s so much to see the miles pass quickly. This is a good hike for the tennis shoe crowd–the trail itself is nicely wide with a soft surface. Bring water shoes for playing at Shoshone Lake or in the river channel.

Once you leave Shoshone Lake you’ll return via the Dogshead Trail. This section of the hike is much more open as it travels through lodgepole pine regrowth after the 1988 fires. Most of the under 1000-foot elevation gain comes from the few hills through here.

Directions

From Cody take the North Fork Highway to the East Entrance. At the Fishing Bridge Junction turn left onto the Grand Loop Road to the West Thumb Junction. Turn left again. Grant Village is two miles and the trailhead is another five miles past Grant. Look for the sign on the right stating “Lewis Channel and Dogshead.”

Be aware there are frequent bear closures in this part of the park. Check at the Grant Ranger Station for current conditions. Make sure to bring bear spray, a park pass, and some strong mosquito repellant.