The long, beautiful Grizzly Lake in Yellowstone National Park sits nestled between two, lodgepole pine covered ridges. These surrounding pines are spaced out in a way that gives you nice vantages and are interrupted by meadows.
The birding is great and the lake has a great shoreline to grab a snack. You also might find some wildlife along the way.
Heading south from Mammoth towards Norris in Yellowstone National Park, I pulled into the pullout with the sign for Grizzly Lake. With a name like that, I had to get at least a little excited about the day’s prospects. At this pullout, you find an interpretive sign and a few social trails that take off behind it. These social trails take you to a creek and, incidentally, away from the real trail. After scratching my head, I realized that I was off track and returned to my car.
The real trail parallels the road and heads north, before crossing an obvious bridge over the creek and over to a trailhead sign. From here, I left the creek and trees to a wonderful meadow. A few Sandhill Cranes flew along the meadow past me and I jumped a Wilson’s Snipe in the grasses. Doing this trail in middle August has its advantages of few bugs and a drier meadow. In the spring, it looked like it would be spongy (which is what both of these birds prefer).
The trail led me to the base of the hill which is pretty bare due to fires. It steeply switchbacks up the hillside for about 300ft before leveling off in the trees. The trees aren’t the suffocating lodgepole forests, but open and airy with a few sections of tighter trees. The trail meanders gently up and down as it traverses the ridge, passing a couple of pocket meadows. There is a stand of mature fir trees which was a bonanza of forest birds including a couple of Townsend’s Warblers, an Orange-crowned Warbler, some Mountain Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. I was in birding heaven.
From there, I returned to the lodgepole pines and former burn areas. The southern end of the Gallatin Range came into view and I could see the lookout on Mt. Holmes through my binoculars. The gorgeous Grizzly Lake came into view as a couple of Double-crested Cormorants landed in the lake. I enjoyed the views all the way down to the lake as the trail descended towards its outlet.
Once at the outlet, I was pleasantly surprised at the lovely shoreline and numerous logs to find a place for lunch. The outlet is clogged with logs that have fallen and have flushed from the lake, only to get stuck. The trail continues on to the Mt. Holmes trailhead, but I decided to turn around at a little over two miles and headed back to my car.
On the way back, I came across a meadow where a few elk were entering. I sat back, obscured by some trees, and watched as three cow elk entered and crossed the meadow. I could hear them calling to each other and was overjoyed when they re-entered the meadow with a couple of calves in tow. I watched them cross the meadow and continue over the trail I was on, not far from me, as I sat still.
Overall, Grizzly Lake is a nice hike with a little elevation gain to a quiet gem in Yellowstone National Park.