Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ice Lake Hike (Yellowstone National Park)

Another hiking trail we had the opportunity to hike while in Yellowstone National Park was Ice Lake. The Ice Lake hike takes you to a lovely, small lake nestled in the thick lodgepole pine forest of Yellowstone National Park. This is a beautiful area that is easily accessible for the whole family when the snow has melted. This trail provides great access to Yellowstone's back-country trail network.

Directions to Trailhead: To get to the trailhead to hike to Ice Lake in Yellowstone National Park, you are going to drive 3.3 miles east from the Norris Junction or alternatively you can drive 8.2 miles west from the Canyon Junction. There is a designated pull out for the Ice Lake trailhead. The Ice Lake trailhead is indicated by signs on the road shortly before the pull out. The parking area is on the north side of the road. The parking area is not very large and has the potential to fill-up as this is a popular hike. Click Here for an interactive map of Yellowstone National Park. There is an entrance fee for Yellowstone National Park, but no permit is required to hike to Ice Lake. However, overnight camping in Yellowstone National Park requires a backcountry permit, for more information click Here.

Description of Hike: This is an out and back hike on a  maintained dirt trail that is covered in snow for portions of the year. The hike to get a view of Ice Lake is 1 mile roundtrip, but to really explore Ice Lake the hike is really 4 miles roundtrip. To do the 4 mile out and back hike you will take the Ice Lake Trail and make a right on the Howard Eaton Trail which runs the length of Ice Lake. The Howard Eaton Trail continues on for many miles past Ice Lake, but the stopping point of the three mile hike is back-country campsite 4D2. This is an out and back type of hike and not a loop. The trail to Ice Lake gets a lot of traffic during the summer time, but not as many hikers go onto the Howard Eaton Trail to explore the area. Note: roughly 0.3 miles from the trailhead area the Ice Lake Trailhead has a trail that splits off to go to back-country campsite 4D3 which is located on the southern shore of the lake. This is an even shorter option to view Ice Lake with a total out and back mileage of 0.6 miles.

Further Thoughts: When we did this hike during a family vacation to Yellowstone. There was still plenty of snow on the ground, but the hiking trail was easy to follow even with snow. There were very few people that attempted this hike because of the amount of snow that was still on the ground and I would not suggest doing a hike in the snow unless you have the proper equipment. The trail, up to the first views of Ice Lake is wide and well maintained. Once you reach the Howard Eaton trail, it is a typical single track back-country trail. Ice Lake is fairly large and is deep for its size. The area around the lake burned in the 1988 fires that ravaged sections of Yellowstone National Park. You can still find evidence of the fire in the area from the young trees.

There are also a number of back-country campgrounds along this area that provide a great opportunity for some accessible back-country camping. To do any back-country camping in Yellowstone you must get a permit and that information can be found Here. The hike to Ice Lake is a great day hike in Yellowstone National Park.

Rating: Elevation Gain: < 100 ft. (Easy), Distance: 4 Miles Roundtrip (Easy)

Time to Complete Hike: 0.5 - 1.5 hours.


Ice Lake (This Post)

View Ice Lake in a larger map

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Ashley and I encourage and welcome our readers to submit comments about their experiences on the trails we have posted on our blog or about their own hiking experiences in general.