Yellowstone Lake

#3 in Best Things To Do in Yellowstone
Yellowstone Lake picture1 of 2
Yellowstone Lake2 of 2
SeanXu/Getty Images

Price & Hours

Free
24/7 daily

Details

Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
4.7scorecard
  • 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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More Best Things To Do in Yellowstone

Old Faithful1 of 8
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone2 of 8
Type
Time to Spend
#1 Old Faithful

The world's most renowned geyser is a must-see for every Yellowstone visitor. Although it isn't the largest geyser in the world, Old Faithful's eruptions are definitely awe-inspiring, averaging around 130 feet high. Like its name suggests, you can count on Old Faithful erupting approximately every hour and a half (the nearby visitors center can provide you with a more accurate schedule). There are several ways to see Old Faithful's power: You can join the hordes of tourists who gather around the perimeter or find a less hectic spot in the nearby Old Faithful Inn's dining room. More adventurous travelers can enjoy the mile-long hike out to Observation Point for a bird's-eye view of the Upper Geyser Basin.

Recent visitors enjoyed seeing Old Faithful, although some felt it wasn't as impressive as other Yellowstone geysers. Many, however, said this geyser is worth checking out. Despite it's fairly predictable schedule, Old Faithful's eruptions occasionally occur sooner than expected, so consider arriving early.

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