You don’t have to travel far to find some of the best views of Yellowstone Lake. Set aside a couple of hours for this 3.9-mile loop that leads to a primo overlook above the park’s largest body of water. From the Elephant Back Trailhead, follow the wide trail that climbs steadily through lodgepole pine forest. As you switchback up the mountain, look for pieces of obsidian (volcanic glass) in the rock, signs of past volcanic activity in the area.
The trail crests a plateau after a mile and a half, and then heads southwest to the overlook. Grab a seat on the bench and soak up the five-star views of Yellowstone Lake and the Absaroka Mountain Range. When you’re ready, continue following the trail along the top of the plateau before tackling the steep descent back to the trailhead.
GUIDEBOOK AND MAP: Yellowstone Treasures, by Janet Chapple ($24, yellowstonetreasures.com). Plan other trips in the park using BACKPACKER’s Yellowstone National Park page.
CONDITIONS: For current conditions and updates, go to nps.gov/yell/conditions.htm.
PERMIT: Overnight camping in Yellowstone National Park requires a backcountry permit. Check out the latest fees and more details at nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/backcountryhiking.htm.
MORE PARK INFO: Yellowstone National Park, (307) 344-7381; nps.gov/yell/
GPS DATA: Download tracks and waypoints, print or order custom topos, from the menu on the left.
-Mapped by Jeff Chow