Yellowstone Lake Overlook, located at 44.412091,-110.586566 is a small mountain with a great view of Yellowstone Lake . It doesn’t have an official name on USGS maps but it is identified as Hill 8034. The hike is short, the view is grand and, most significantly, Yellowstone Lake Overlook is the first good stop in the park from the South Entrance with the added bonus of having its trailhead is located next to restrooms. People spending the night in Jackson Hole will have just driven 70 miles behind cars doing 10 miles under the speed limit with their blinkers on. After a highly annoying drive into the park, this is a much needed leg stretch to refocus the world. Given its location and perfect morning panoramas, Yellowstone Lake Overlook is a great warm-up to a hard day of doing the tourist thing in Yellowstone Park.
The trip to the summit is a short 2 mile round trip with ~400 feet of vertical. The summit is out of the forest and rewards you with an outstanding panoramic of West Thumb Bay, Duck Lake and the Absaroka Mountain Range.
There is a trailhead marker on the west side of the West Thumb Geyer Basin parking lot. Follow the trail into the forest as it heads west. In about ¼ mile, the trail crosses Highway 89/191. Continue west through the new growth pine forest as the trail gradually goes uphill. At ~3/4 miles with the summit in sight, the trail will significantly steepen. Near the top, there are a couple of small fumaroles pumping out steam—nice to warm up next to on cold fall days. There aren’t any trees on the summit, so you’ll have a full range of sight of the Yellowstone Lake, Duck Lake and surrounding mountains. The entire hike is on well maintained and easy to follow trails.
Length: ~2 miles Roundtrip
Estimated time: ~1 to 2 hours
Elevation change: ~ 400 feet
Trailhead Location: 44.415429, -110.574722
Summit Location: 44.412091, -110.586566
Heading north from Jackson Hole, take Highway 89/191. About 22 miles into the park through the South Entrance, you will see signs for the West Thumb Geyser Basin. The trailhead is signed on the west side of the parking lot just as you enter the area. If you are near the bathrooms, you’ve gone too far.
There are restrooms, water, directions and a herd of tourists at the trailhead.
Like everywhere in Yellowstone National Park, visits come with red tape, rules and regulations. In general, pay the fee, pack out trash, keep fires in the fire pit, and don’t piss off the mega-fauna. Entrance fees to enter the park are $25 for a car, $20 for a motorcycle or $12 to enter on foot, bike or skis. The permit is good for 7-days in Yellowstone or Grand Teton, so have fun while you can!
Because the Overlook hike is short, it isn’t normally considered for camping. However, if you are staying for a while in Yellowstone, there are a dozen camping areas throughout the park. You can make reservations by visiting the at Yellowstone website or calling 307-344-7311 or 1-866-GEYSERLAND
Make reservations as early as possible as sites fill up quickly, especially during peak seasons (early July-late August).
Wildlife in the area ranges from friendly bunnies to hungry bears---don’t feed any of them.
During your hike Yellowstone Lake Overlook, you will have a fair probability of seeing bison, elk, moose, deer, and/or bears. Wolves, cougars, bobcats, foxes and coyotes are also in the area but are less often seen. The park service cautions you to stay 50 yards away from grass-eaters and 100 yards away from you-eaters. The animals may look docile but every year numerous people get mauled/gored/stomped trying to get that perfect picture. Remember this is a national park, not a theme park and the animals aren’t domesticated.
Bird watchers also get lucky with hawks, eagles and vultures in the area as well as various songbirds (depending on the season).