Hike the Wapiti Lake Trail to Grand Canyon of Yellowstone Loop

Wyoming Wapiti Lake Trailhead

  • Activities:

    Chillin, Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    5 Miles

Easy Parking

This hike throught the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone should take 3-4 hours and will take you to two massive waterfalls, a hydrothermal area, and two peaceful lakes. Keep an eye out for wildlife.

Experience Yellowstone’s diversity with this epic loop hike.

How to get there:
Wapiti Lake Trailhead is located just south of Upper Falls of the Yellowstone. From Yellowstone Lake, head north on Grand Loop Road. Turn right on South Rim Dr. Just after crossing Chittenden Bridge turn right and park in the large parking lot.

The Hike:
The hike begins with a steady climb through and open meadow. To the right you’ll have views of Hayden Valley. This is bear country so use precaution. Keep left at the first junction towards Clear Lake. As you approach Clear Lake you’ll notice a junction to the left that cuts to Uncle Tom’s trail. Keep on the main trail towards Clear Lake. Although more the size of a pond, Clear Lake is a scenic destination and offers a nice photo opportunity.

Shortly past Clear Lake you’ll trek through a large hydrothermal area with bubbling mud pots and steam vents. This is not a safe place to explore. Ground near thermal areas is fragile and the water can be scalding hot and acidic. Make sure to stay on the designated trail

Soon you’ll reach Lily Pad Lake junction. Turn left here towards Lily Pad Lake. Again, this is more of a pond but still scenic.

Shortly after Lily Pad Lake you’ll reach South Rim Trail which follows along the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. At the junction you can head east and take an optional short hike to Point Sublime. Point Sublime offers stunning views of the canyon. Personally, I found the views to be equally as epic to the west. Hike along South Rim Trail towards Lower Falls. There are several ledges to explore and take in the scenery.

Continue your hike along South Rim Trail until you reach Artist Point. Here you’ll find a great view of Lower Falls. This area is heavily populated. Snag a picture of Yellowstone’s largest waterfall and get back to the trail.

The trail continues just past the large parking lot for Artist Point. Continue hiking until you reach Uncle Tom’s Trail. Here you can hike 328 steps straight down to the base of Lower Falls. If you’re feeling tired at this point I’d recommend skipping this optional trail. Hiking back up the stairs will most likely completely wear you out. If you're up for it, it's a fun way to get up close and personal to the waterfall.

After Uncle Tom’s Trail continue on South Rim Trail to the Upper Falls overlook. Here you’ll find another nice photo opportunity.

You’ll finish your hike along the raging Yellowstone River. We stopped here and hung out on one of the several large rocks just off the trail. Dip your feet in the water and relax.

Finally you’ll reach the bridge. Hike back up to the road and follow it back to the trailhead parking lot.

Pack List

  • Hiking boots
  • Water
  • Bear spray (if feeling paranoid)
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Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

You go from meadow to mud pots, to lily pads and then river and waterfall. Truly diverse landscape and SO MUCH FUN! Thank you for the detailed description. You made the day for this family.😄😄

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

This is a great hike with little elevation gain. I hiked it alone (dumb) & was reminded why NOT to hike alone in Yellowstone country. I was surprised (20 feet away) by a massive female moose that came running out of the brush down to the lake. Also a large mule deer buck. Peaceful hike & not crowded later in the day.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Jon KingExplorer

Based in Kansas City. Murse. Instagram: @joneking

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