This may be our favorite hike in Yellowstone National Park. The destination is so beautiful, and we have seen so many things along the trail. But be warned: though very short, this trail is very steep and you have to take it slow. Those with health issues may want to skip this hike.
Trout Lake is located at the far end of Lamar Valley in the northeast section of the park. This section of the park is a great place to see animals, so we spend a lot of time up there anyway. There is a large pullout and signage marking the hike to Trout Lake, but the fisherman keep this place fairly busy, so don’t expect to be on your own.
As you park your car, the trail leads to the left and will climb the hill directly in front of you. It is steep, so be careful, but it is mercifully short and the reward is spectacular. After less than half a mile to the lake, you top the rise and the lake opens up in front of you. Trout Lake is relatively small, but the water is as smooth as glass, and the reflection of the mountains is gorgeous.
We always walk around the lake to the right, because just climbing that hill and stumbling back down it wouldn’t be much fun. This adds mileage to the hike, but it is the best part of the hike, and the walk around the lake is easy and flat. Each year we are rewarded with something special. In 2013 it was an otter playing in the shallows. In 2015 we found 3 baby Barrow’s Goldeneyes sitting on a log with their mother.
You can see very large trout (which according to the fishermen weren’t biting) if you go to the far north end of the lake where the water flows in. They are swimming in the shallow water right near the edge (fishing is forbidden here where the fish spawn). We also counted 4 or 5 frogs along the shore, each about as large as your fist. We even saw a pronghorn on the hillside above the lake.
As you circle around, you’ll cross a bridge where the water flows out of the lake and back along the trail. It is wonderful and shady, and really picturesque. If your legs are up for a short climb, there is no better hike in the park than Trout Lake.