July 18th, 2021. This hike started off at the Wapiti Lake trailhead in Yellowstone National Park. Hiked on the South Rim trail, to Point Sublime, down to Lily Pad Lake, to Ribbon Lake, to Clear Lake and back to the trailhead. This was a pretty moderate loop that takes you through a variety of landscapes and environments.
- Distance – 11 miles
- Elevation Gain – 1,188 ft
- Total Time – 5:26 minutes
Short Film Covering this Hike
Driving through Hayden Valley
This was day 2 of 3 of our camping trip we spent in Yellowstone National Park. We started off leaving our campsite at Grant Village right before sunrise. I was looking forward to driving through Hayden Valley early in the morning as this is one of the best places to spot wildlife in Yellowstone. It did not disappoint. Saw some cars pulled over on the side of the road. So we pulled over as well and looked over at the misty river to see a moose walking through it. The moose crossed the road, stopped in the meadow for a few minutes, giving us plenty of time to get some pictures and video, before heading off into the valley. In the distance there were a giant herd of elk. Bison were spotted multiple times right next to the road. It was an amazing experience and made getting to the Wapiti Lake trailhead very difficult with all the stops.
South Rim trail – Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
Eventually we made it though after the hour long wildlife detour. Started off on the South Rim trail. The roaring sound of the mighty Yellowstone river was bone chilling. Less than a mile into the trail there is an overlook that gives you amazing views of Upper Yellowstone Falls. Continued on the South Rim trail to the next scenic overlooks, which would give us great views of the Lower Yellowstone Falls.
At this time of writing, Uncle Tom’s trail, which leads you down into the canyon was closed off. Bummer. Next stop was one of the most amazing overlooks I’ve ever seen. Artist Point.
At this time is was about 8:30am so the light was shining down into the canyon at an angle. Tourists and photographers were taking photos and selfies at the overlook, but there was still plenty of room to get some good video footage and photographs. There is a road and a sizeable parking lot at the Artist Point trailhead, so you don’t have to hike the South Rim trail if this is your main scenic destination.
Ribbon Lake trail junction
From here there was a sign stating hikers to be cautious about unmaintained trails ahead. We saw nothing of the sort. Although the trail was rocky and unstable it seemed pretty maintained to us, although we are used to rough trails in the back country of Rocky Mountain National Park. We saw a scenic stop on the map called Point Sublime, and appeared that it would only add a few miles to our overall hike. We headed that direction before veering off onto the Ribbon Lake trail. Point Sublime is a well built overlook that gives you nice views down into the canyon. The steep cliffs zig zag making it very photogenic. In my opinion though, if you choose to pass this by, you won’t be missing that much.
Returning back to the Ribbon Lake trail Junction we headed towards Lily Pad Lake. This is where the mosquitoes started coming out in full force. The lake was cool, calm, with small parts of thermal activity going on near the shore line. After dousing ourselves with mosquito spray it was time to go to the next trail junction, and head towards Ribbon Lake.
Hiking to Ribbon Lakes
This section of hiking was pretty straight forward, through a dense forest with only a couple of downed trees to navigate over. Ran into some hikers that said there were grizzly bears in the area. I’m pretty sure there’s always a chance for grizzly encounters in Yellowstone and that’s one of the main reasons I love hiking here, so I wasn’t too concerned with there statement of caution. Saw a sign for Silver-cord Cascade near Ribbon Lake. Followed the trail and sound of the running water, but unfortunately we could not find any view point to see the cascade. Only sound. A veteran Yellowstone hiker later told us it can only be viewed from the North Rim. Figures.
Visited both of the Ribbon Lakes. There are two back country campsites here (permit only) and we had to hike through the campsites to reach the lakes. There were no campers at either campsite though. Views at the lakes were nice but nothing mind blowing. Although I believe that this is more of a location to pitch a tent if you are attempting one of longer backpacking loops in this area, such as the Wapiti Lake loop. After a brief visit of both the lakes we backtracked to the Clear Lake trail junction.
After passing the Clear Lake trail junction you soon arrive in a different, treeless landscape. Back to barren ground and thermal activity. Although it wasn’t as magnificent as the main thermal attractions in Yellowstone National Park, it was cool to see a change of scenery so quickly.
Once we hiked through the dry area we once again came to a trail surrounded by grass and wildflowers.
We had arrived at Clear lake. This was definitely my favorite lake of the 3. It lived up to it’s name despite being a little windy. The back drop fit the scene perfectly. There was a little bit of thermal activity as well on different spots around the lake. I took several photos here and video clips, before heading back towards the Wapiti Lake trailhead.
Returning to the Wapiti Lake Trailhead
The hike back to the trailhead was beautiful. Yet another complete change of scenery where we found ourselves on a trail, surrounded by endless wildflowers and mountain views. This was truly one of my favorite parts of the entire hike, and couldn’t of asked for a better ending to a hike. Got back to the trailhead around noon, which was full of cars. Chatted with a local hiker that told us he’s been to the park over 150 times and tracks every mile he hikes. He had loads of inside information that helped us plan our next few hikes.
If you would like to follow the route that we hiked here is a link to our Alltrails Map.