This is a short hike to a wonderful little 12 acre lake. The trail begins with a moderately steep climb through mostly Douglas fir forest. Just before the lake, the trail nears a wildflower-filled meadow that contains the lake’s outlet stream. The short distance to the lake, combined with the shade along the way, makes a great route for beginner hikers, even with the climb. For those wishing to increase the hike by a few more steps, there is a trail that circumnavigates Trout Lake as well.
What Makes It Great
This trail is popular for anglers as well. Trout Lake is full of rainbow-cutthroat trout hybrids that are hard to catch but rewarding in fight and size. In some lakes and streams of Yellowstone National, the native cutthroat trout have mated with introduced rainbow trout to form a hybrid species often called "cutbows". Trout Lake is full of these fish. The fishing at Trout Lake, in part due to its popularity, is catch and release only.
Trout are in the salmon family and are known as salmonids. All salmonids spawn in fresh water and some, like salmon, can travel great distances from the ocean to spawn within inland rivers and streams. In Trout Lake, the rainbow-cutthroat hybrids spawn in the shallow waters of the lake’s inlet and create quite a spectacle while doing so. This inlet is closed to fishing during the spawning season.
The Douglas firs shading the trail on the hike also demonstrate a different conifer species than the dominant lodgepole pine covering most of Yellowstone National Park. While smaller than the huge, coastal Douglas firs inhabiting the Pacific Northwest, the Rocky Mountain variety can still grow quite large. Look for their small cones next to the trail easily identified with the many small “tails” poking out on all sides.
Who is Going to Love It
Beginner hikers, families, and anglers will all love this trail. Those looking to escape the heat on a warm day will too. Make sure to pack a swimsuit in your daypack. If swimming or fishing, please be sure to be courteous of other users and share the lake. As always, practice and learn the Leave No Trace guidelines when visiting popular outdoor areas.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From the Northeast Entrance: Drive 11.4 miles west and park in the turnout on the northside of the road. Parking is free with an Entrance Pass.
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.