The Observation Peak Trail in Yellowstone National Park is a trail that takes you through beautiful meadows, past a lake and up on an alpine ridge to a great overlook. The lookout on the summit is no longer staffed, but a great building with panoramic views.
You can start your trek to Observation Peak via the Cascade Lake Trail or the Cascade Creek Trail. I took the Cascade Lake Trail which is shorter and more interesting than the Cascade Creek Trail. The Cascade Lake Trail drops into a pleasant, older stand of lodgepole pines where I jumped some elk on my way out. This stand of trees is an older stand of trees making it more open as opposed to some of the younger, more suffocating stands.
It then breaks out to forest lined meadows. In the spring when I hiked this trail, the flowers were amazing and the birds were all over the place. Small feeder creeks drain into Cascade Creek as you move from one meadow to another. Springtime can get a little muddy, especially as you approach Cascade Lake. Cascade Lake is tucked below Observation Peak. One shore is lined in lodgepole pines, while another sits at the base of the meadows along the flanks of the mountain.
Another shore is the broad meadow that you approach the lake from. The trail for Observation Peak breaks off just before you get to the lake and begins climbing up the ridge. This is some of my favorite hiking as I’m a huge fan of alpine meadows. You bounce around from open, alpine meadows to small pockets of trees. A burn through the area has left silver snags standing and on the ground which is perfect habitat for a variety of birds and small mammals. In the spring, the flowers are everywhere and the bugs can be annoying as well.
As you work your way up, you can look back down on Canyon Village and the very top of the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Further south, you can see Hayden Valley as the Yellowstone River snakes its way to the canyon. Finally, at the top, you come to a sweet old lookout perched on a rocky outcropping. Panoramic views delight the eyes. To the hwest, you can see Mt. Holmes with its lookout if you have binoculars. Mt. Holmes is at the southern end of the Gallatin Range which is an impressive string of peaks that dominate the landscape.
To the south you have the Central Plateau and the Canyon Junction area to the east. Just out of sight is Mt. Washburn, but to the north, it’s just more hills and mountains.
Overall, the hike isn’t an overly strenuous one, although there are a couple of steeper sections and the elevation may get to some. The wide array of terrain, water, and exceptional views make this hike a rewarding experience. One note is that afternoon thunderstorms are a frequent occurrence in Yellowstone National Park, so plan accordingly as you spend some time on exposed ridges.