This is a 2.5 mile hike, one way, to a large, deep, picturesque lake near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The trail is relatively flat, wide, and in really good condition — perfect for groups or families. Purple lupine and pink fireweed dot the smattering of meadows and open forest along the hike. The lake itself is surrounded by a large meadow with wildflower blooms in late June through early July. While not ideal for swimming, the lake does contain trout and grayling for eager anglers. In July and August this area is well-traveled by bison.
What Makes It Great
Cascade Lake, and the trail to it, lie within areas burned in the historic 1988 Yellowstone wildlfires. In many areas throughout the park, the fires burned hot enough to kill the mature lodgepole pines but not to fell them. Many still stand, devoid of bark and branches, as eerie reminders of that fateful year.
In many western ecosystems, wildfire has played a natural role is forming the landscape for thousands of years. Lodgepole pine cones, for example, often need exposure to high temperatures to open and spread their seeds. As you hike along the trail notice the younger trees, now decades old, reaching for the sun and replacing the forest lost in the 1988 wildfires.
This trail also provides great view of bison. Like the young trees replacing the fire-scorched ones, bison too have made a comeback in Yellowstone National Park and are thriving. Bison once roamed North America from Canada to Mexico and even as far east as North Carolina. Brought to the brink of extinction by hunting and cattle-spread disease, bison now flourish in Yellowstone and other National Parks and reserves. Please to not underestimate the huge, shaggy bison as tame cattle, however bison are extremely fast, dangerous, and have injured more visitors in Yellowstone National Park than any other animal.
Who is Going to Love It
Groups and families will love this trail. The picnic area at the trailhead is very nice and serves as a great spot for lunch before heading down the trail. And at 5 miles round trip, over mostly flat ground, everyone in the group has a chance to see the lake, even beginner hikers.
Anglers will love this trail as well. Cascade Lake contains both cutthroat trout and grayling, both native species to Yellowstone National Park.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From the Canyon Junction: Drive 1.3 miles north and park in the parking area on the Westside of the road. Parking is free with an Entrance Pass.
Please respect wildlife and maintain the required distances from all Yellowstone wildlife. It is illegal to approach or remain within 100 yards of bears or wolves. All other animals must be within 25 yards.
Fishing in Yellowstone National Park requires lead-free tackle and a valid Yellowstone National Park fishing permit. Please clean all waders, boots, boats, and other fishing equipment before entering the park to reduce the spread of Aquatic Nuisance Species.