Perfect for an easy overnighter, this 6.7-mile loop near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone connects two small lakes, a series of thermal features, and a dramatic waterfall. From the Wapiti Lake Trailhead, hike east across an expansive plain and take a left at the first junction to start the clockwise loop.
A mile into the hike, the path skirts the southern edge of Clear Lake. Soon afterwards, the smell of rotten eggs marks your arrival at several thermal features that flank the trail. Hike through a moonscape of craggy rocks, gurgling mudpots, and steaming fumaroles and continue northeast.
At mile 2.9, the route passes Ribbon Lake—two small lakes linked by a channel—and turns right at a T-junction. To add a worthy side trip, hikers can turn left at this junction to visit Silver Cord Cascade, a striking waterfall that plummets 1,200 feet into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
After passing Ribbon Lake, the route crosses two small streams, then rounds to the southwest through thick forest. Top off the hike by cruising through open plains dotted with more thermal features. At mile 6.2, close the loop at Waypoint 2, and turn left for the half-mile stretch 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