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Cascade Lake

Yellowstone National Park

July 26th, 2011

4.9 miles
340 vertical feet
Total Time: 4:04

Starting elevation
8056 feet
Max elevation
8071 feet

Rating: 6/10

Directions: From West Yellowstone, drive east to enter the park. Just past the Madison Campground, turn left toward Norris. At the next intersection, turn right toward Canyon Village. At the next intersection, turn left and shortly turn left into the Cascade Lake trailhead parking lot. Alternatively, you can also go a little further up the road and turn into the Cascade Lake picnic area parking lot.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

There are two places to start this hike, although I think they're probably pretty similar. Coming from the Canyon area, we saw the sign for the Cascade trailhead and turned left into the parking lot. It was a bit weird because there were huge mounds of gravel on the side of the lot -- it looked like they were doing some sort of construction or maintenance here. There were also no trailhead signs, other than the brown one on the road that said simply "Cascade Lake". I asked some other people who had just returned to their car if this was the right place, and they confirmed. Perhaps the Cascade Lake picnic area, a little further up the road, was better signed. In any case, I think the distance from each is about the same.

After getting ready, we finally got underway around noon. The trail immediately descends gradually into the forest, and reaches a trail intersection. The Cascade Lake picnic area is to the right, so we turned left onto the main trail toward Cascade Lake.

The next section of trail is relatively flat as it heads west toward the lake, in and out of trees and through meadows, wildflowers dotting the way. We saw a few scattered hikers, many of them fishermen. A little over a mile in, we turned right to stay on the trail (to the left is the Cascade Creek Trail).

Heading out through the meadows

More of the same

From here it's much of the same. We crossed a few small streams, and then the trees gave way mostly to meadow. As we approached the lake, the way become muddy. In several places there were slight detours through the grasses to try to avoid the mud. Soon we could see the lake ahead of us, tucked off to the left.

Out in the grasses before the lake, which is ahead on the left


When we arrived at the lake, all the nice shady spots above the lake were already taken. We walked to the far (southwest) end of the lake, and settled down on the grasses near the water for lunch. The edge of the lake is pretty much grassy all the way around. There are backpacking campsites in the forest near the southwestern end of the lake.

Grasses at the far end of the lake

Far end of the lake

The lake is pleasant if unspectacular. The eastern side is lined with burned-out trees, probably remnants of the 1988 fires. The western side is dotted with flowers and grasses. After lunch, we returned the way we came. If you are up for a more challenging hike to a view, you can turn left near the northwestern end of the lake and head up to Observation Peak. That would add about 6 miles to the hike.

Trail heading back next to the lake

Fisherman in the shadow of the cloud

Heading back past wildflowers

Looking back after crossing a small bridge

We opted for the shorter hike, however. The hike back was easy and uneventful; we arrived back at the parking lot a little over an hour after leaving the lake.

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