OverviewJust a look at this low, sloping hump in comparison to the nearby angular peaks jutting out of the Yellowstone ranges makes the name "Elephant Back" seem appropriate. While not as impressive as some mountains in the immediate area, Elephant Back remains a favorite hike of those trying to get a better look of the Lake-area scenery while staying in the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, and especially park staff.
As far as the USGS is concerned, the highest point on the Elephant Back is 2687m (8,816'), but the lookout at the end of the loop trail is closer to 8,290 feet.
The top is a great location for panoramic photography, especially with the spectacular colors at sunrise or sunset. Be extremely careful if you chose to hike in the dark to make sunrise or sunset, as early in the season (May-July) the grizzly population is moving south through this area. Also, watch for daily evening showers that come up fast and dump over the lake in the later season.
Getting ThereThe trailhead is located at a pull-off approximately 1 mile south of the junction to Fishing Bridge, just before the turn into Lake Station.
Distance: 3 mile (5 km) loop
Level of Difficulty: Moderately strenuous
This trail climbs 800 feet in 1.5 miles (2.4 km) through a dense lodgepole pine forest. After a mile, the trail splits into a loop. The left fork is the shorter and less strenuous route to the top. Although the trail does not afford much in the way of views, the clearing at the end of the trail does provide a fallen-tree-turned-park-bench from which to catch your breath and take in the sweeping panorama of the largest high altitude lake in North America, the Historic Lake Hotel, and deep into the Absaroka mountain range.
National Park Entry Fees:
Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks require that all entrants purchase a park pass which is valid for 7 days at both parks and the John D. Rockefeller Parkway, which connects the two parks. The current fees as of May 1, 2006 are: $25 for a private, non-commericial vehicle; $20 for each motorcycle; or $12 for each visitor over 16 years of age entering by foot or other means.
You may also purchase an Annual Area Pass for approximately $40, or an annual National Parks Pass for $80, which is good for one year of entry into any National Park.
See The Yellowstone Net's information on discounted fees for disabled persons or senior citizens.
All wildlife, especially bison and bears, can be dangerous. Never approach, harass, or feed any animals, even small ones. It is against the law to approach within 100 yards of bears or within 25 yards of other wildlife or within any distance where harassment occurs. Pets must be leashed; they are prohibited on trails and in the backcountry. Defacing park features, collecting natural or archeological objects, picking wildflowers, and littering are illegal.
CampingCamping and fires are allowed only on designated sites, and backcountry permits are required for overnight trips. There are no designated backcountry sites in the immediate area of Elephant Back, and it's plenty easy to make it down with enough time to move on to a legitimate camping spot.
The closest camping is in Bridge Bay Campground, which is about 2 miles south of the trailhead (Fishing Bridge is closer, but only has RV camping). The Park Service recommends that you book your campsite in advance, as campgrounds may fill by early morning, especially during peak season (early July—late August).
External LinksTopozone.com's coverage of Elephant Back
NPS Lake Area map