What better place to snag sweet vistas of Yellowstone’s stunning topography than the aptly-named Observation Peak? Perfectly situated in Yellowstone’s rugged northwestern reaches, this 10.5-mile out-and-back packages unbeatable views of the park in a relatively short and easy dayhike.
Starting from the Cascade Creek Trailhead, wind through the tranquil Cascade Meadows while ducking in and out of patches of lodgepole forest. Cruise along the generally flat trail tracing the Cascade Creek until reaching the pristine Cascade Lake at mile 2.5. Dotted with a dazzling array of wildflowers in the summer, the lake provides a perfect resting spot before making the roughly 2.6-mile climb (gaining around 875 feet) to Observation Peak.
Along the way, pass through more wildflower-peppered meadows, gnarled sagebrush shrubs, and wind-toppled lodgepoles scarred from the wildfires of 1988. Panoramas become more picturesque with every step until you reach the best views at the top of the peak: Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon to the east, the Gallatin Range to the west, Mount Sheridan to the south, and miles of rolling foothills to the north. Return home by retracing your steps to the trailhead.
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/.
-Mapped by Jeff Chow