Clear Lake and Ribbon Lake Loop

A relatively easy loop hike combines a trio of backcountry lakes with a stroll along the canyon rim. You can start from several spots, but we like beginning at the Clear Lake Trailhead. After less than a mile, turn left to reach tree-ringed Clear Lake. Lily Pad Lake is just beyond, and peaceful Ribbon Lake is about a mile past that. Retrace your steps to Lily Pad Lake, then turn north, then west, to approach the knockout vista of the Lower Falls at Artist Point. The rest of the loop follows the South Rim Trail along the canyon’s edge, offering views of thundering waterfalls and brightly colored rock walls.

5.8-mile loop. Easy to moderate. Access: Clear Lake Trailhead, 2.3 miles south of Canyon Junction on South Rim Dr.

Mount Washburn

This is one of Yellowstone’s most popular day hikes for good reason. The climb up to 10,243 feet is challenging but gradual, the peak’s slopes are known for a rainbow of wildflowers in summer, and the view from the summit is practically unmatched. You might spot bighorn sheep, black bears, or grizzlies up here—in fact, grizzlies tend to congregate on the slopes in fall to munch on whitebark pine nuts. The top approach begins from Dunraven Pass and follows a wide trail up above the tree line with ever-expanding views. From the top, you’ll see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Hayden Valley, Specimen Ridge, Slough Creek, and even the Tetons on a clear day. There’s also a lookout on the summit, which provides welcome shelter from the often-whipping winds. You can also hike it from the Old Chittenden Road, a slightly shorter (5 miles round-trip) but steeper trail. Much of this hike is exposed to the elements, so don’t attempt it if there’s a chance of lightning.

6 miles round-trip. Moderate. Access: Trailheads are at Dunraven Pass and the end of Old Chittenden Rd.

North Rim Trail

The trail skirting the north rim, which is described more fully under “Canyon Village,” in chapter 3, offers better views of the falls and the river than you’ll get from the parking areas. It’s a nice way to see a longer stretch of the canyon.

6 miles round-trip. Easy. Access: Trailheads are at Wapiti Lake Trailhead and Inspiration Point.

Seven Mile Hole

The only way to reach the Yellowstone River in the Grand Canyon area, Seven Mile Hole Trail is a doozy: You’ll drop more than 1,000 feet in just 2.3 miles going from rim to river. But first, the trail wanders along the north rim, stopping at overlooks with views of 1,200-foot Silver Cord Cascade across the canyon. Soon you’ll graduate from gazing at to hiking into the canyon, passing dormant and active hot springs along the way to the wide Yellowstone River. Keep in mind that this exposed hike can be hot, and don’t underestimate the challenge of climbing back out of the canyon.

10 miles round-trip. Moderate to difficult. Access: Trailhead is at Glacial Boulder pullout on the road to Inspiration Point.

South Rim Trail

As with the North Rim Trail, there are more and better views of the canyon and river here than you can see from a vehicle. It’s easy and not long, yet you’ll have it mainly to yourself because most folks are in and out of the bus at the parking lots.

7 miles round-trip. Easy. Access: Trailheads are Wapiti Lake Trailhead and Artist Point.

Observation Peak

Climb past a riot of purple and pink wildflowers en route to 360-degree views on this classic summit
hike. The trail begins by crossing patches of forest and meadows to Cascade Lake, a great spot for fishing or even swimming on hot days. Then hoof it 1,400 vertical feet in 2.6 miles through a whitebark pine forest to the Observation Peak summit. There’s an old wooden fire tower up here, but you’ll be more interested in the encompassing views of the Gallatins, Absarokas, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

9.6 miles round-trip. Difficult. Access: Cascade Lake Trailhead, 1.3 miles north of Canyon Junction.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.