Price & Hours
- Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Sightseeing Type
- 1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
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Sitting in the heart of Yellowstone's West Thumb area is Yellowstone Lake, the park's largest body of water and the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet in North America. First visited by Lewis and Clark's scout, John Colter, in the early 1800s, Yellowstone Lake has since become a popular destination among anglers and boaters. During the winter, many animals (think: bison and grizzly bears) trek to the more shallow areas of the lake's southern shores, where the water doesn't freeze due to the geothermic activity that takes place beneath the surface. But most of the lake freezes over by early December and can stay that way until early June.
For panoramic views, travelers suggest driving around this lake. When the weather is warmer, many say a picnic lunch by the water's edge can't be beat. And if you're interested in bedding down in the area, several recommend staying at Lake Yellowstone Hotel & Cabins, which overlooks the lake and is a National Historic Landmark. Tours of the hotel are also offered via Xanterra Parks & Resorts and Buffalo Bus Touring Company.
Yellowstone Lake is easily accessible from both the park's East and West entrances. In the surrounding West Thumb and Grant Village areas, you'll find a visitors center and an information station, where restrooms, gift shops and park exhibits and talks are available. Facility hours vary, but the lake is free to visit 24 hours a day between May 11 and Nov. 6 (when roads to the region are open). Consult the National Park Service's West Thumb and Grant Village Area page for more information.