This remote, 22.5-mile lasso loop in Yellowstone National Park’s northwest reaches traces Specimen Creek en route to two backcountry lakes. From the Specimen Creek Trailhead, follow the trail northeast 2 miles to a Y-junction. Bear left to start the clockwise loop. As the path winds north up the creek valley, it crosses several streams and passes a couple campsites. After 6 miles, turn right at a 3-way junction and start the climb to Crescent Lake, a small tarn tucked below a majestic cirque. Spend the night here, then continue hiking northeast to a cliff (mile 10.4) that marks the boundary of Yellowstone; views of Gallatin National Forest extend to the north.
From here, bear right along the edge of the cliffs and head southeast to High Lake, a popular wildlife hang-out. After skirting the shores of the lake, follow the East Fork Specimen Creek to the southwest—passing through more forest and meadows. Near mile 16, turn right at the T-junction onto Sportman Lake Trail. Hike west 4.6 more miles to complete the loop. Turn left for the 2-mile stretch back 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