Yellowstone Lake

#3 in Best Things To Do in Yellowstone
Yellowstone Lake picture1 of 2
Yellowstone Lake2 of 2
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Key Info

Price & Hours

Free
24/7 daily

Details

Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
4.7

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 5.0Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

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.

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Type
Time to Spend
#1 Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Formed over thousands of years of erosion caused by wind, water and other natural forces, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is the primary attraction in the Canyon Village area and one of the park's most popular hiking spots. The canyon stretches approximately 20 miles long and nearly a mile wide. Just as remarkable as the canyon's terra-cotta hued cliff walls is its river, which is the longest undammed river in the country, meandering for more than 600 miles through Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota.

"Amazing," "beautiful" and "fascinating" are just a few adjectives recent visitors used to describe this natural wonder. Most praised its hiking trails (like Artist and Lookout points), but a few said to check the National Park Service's Canyon Area Construction Projects page before you arrive since several paths are either partly or completely closed for renovations. Another tip: Get to the canyon early or late in the day to avoid rubbing elbows with hordes of tourists.

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