Grizzly Lake is typical Yellowstone backcountry. A beautiful lake, some nice surrounding peaks, wildflowers, wildlife and a variety of living and dead trees are part and parcel for this hike. The Grizzly Lake trail is just south of Obsidian Cliff where early Native Americans chipped hunks of the smooth, black volcanic rock to make surgically sharp implements.
What Makes It Great
Grizzly Lake itself is just under two miles from the trailhead on a well-maintained trail, so it makes for a good overnighter for inexperienced backpackers, or anyone who doesn’t want to hike massive amounts in one day. The trail is beautiful and you’ll hike along through several nice habitats.
From the trailhead, you’ll travel through remnants of several forest fires, the largest being the fires of 1988. Take a look at the masses of not very tall trees around you. It’s hard to believe they’re over 25 years old. Yellowstone is a tough place to be a tree - short growing seasons, shallow and infertile soils and harsh winters means trees don’t grow very tall very fast.
The trail then heads west over the ridge through some wonderful wildflower meadows and down to the lakeshore. From the ridge look up to the west for great views of the Gallatin Range and Mt. Holmes. This is where shorter trees come in handy. They’ll be tall enough to block the view in another few years.
Grizzly Lake is fitted into a narrow valley with Straight Creek flowing in from the south and out the north. There are four campsites in the area with two to the north and the others on the west side on the trail to Mt. Holmes. Exercise caution when crossing Straight Creek as it flows from the lake. Crossing upstream and not on the log jam is your safer bet.
Who is Going to Love It
Beginning backpackers and kids will enjoy Grizzly Lake. The short distance combined with the slight uphill challenge will make newbies feel they’ve conquered the world. Rewards of wildflowers and a chance to see some wildlife make it even more appealing. If you’re up for a challenge you can get up early and truck up to Mt. Holmes. The summit is exposed and afternoon thunderstorms are common in late summer. Get off the top before lightning is attracted to your sparkling personality.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Cody, take US HWY 14/16/20 west to Yellowstone National Park. Continue down to Fishing Bridge and turn north towards Canyon at the intersection with the Grand Loop Road. At Canyon Junction, turn left toward Norris. At Norris Junction turn north toward Mammoth for 6 miles. The trailhead will be on your left with ample parking. You’ll need a Yellowstone Park entry pass which you’ll purchase at the entrance for $25, and a backcountry permit. If you have time the pass will also get you into Grand Teton National Park and is good for seven days.
Note that pets are not permitted in the backcountry. Carry bear spray and insect repellent.