The Dogshead Trail is an easy 4.75 mile (one way) trail that brings hikers to the shores of Shoshone Lake in Yellowstone National Park. What makes the destination exciting is that Shoshone Lake is the largest backcountry lake in the lower 48 (ie, the largest lake that cannot be reached by road). The trail is also a short stretch of the Continental Divide Trail. This can be hiked as an out and back, but most people pair it with the Lewis River Channel Trail to make a loop.
Dogshead Trail Description
From the parking area, look for the trailhead on the north side of the parking lot. The trail will advance northward through the woods along a mostly straight line for 0.4 miles. It’s an easy part of the wide trail through the expansive lodgepole pine forest. While I haven’t been able to corroborate this just yet, this section of the trail was most likely an earlier version of the South Entrance Road prior to the modern road being relocated just a bit to the east. As a result, it’s an easy walk before cutting westward.
Once you cut west from the old road, the trail is a more standard single-track. Shortly after, it begins to take a more northwestward route for the duration of the hike. The hike through the forest is both quiet and peaceful, broken up only by an occasional pond or drainage. You’ll find the ponds are an especially welcome sight to keep the forest from being too monotonous.
At 3.5 miles in, you’ll reach a small summit that you’ve gradually been climbing to. While it’s not exactly panoramic views, it does provide a nice glimpse of the surrounding terrain. You’ll even notice Sheridan Mountain towering to the southeast behind you.
From the small summit, you’ll make a quicker descent than the ascent was, though nothing too challenging. Through the serene forest, you’ll at last reach a junction at 4.75 miles in. This is technically the end of the Dogshead Trail, however if you’d like to explore the shores of Shoshone Lake while there, head left at that junction and continue down the trail for about 0.25 miles, heading right through the following junction. Along this section of the trail you’ll have gorgeous views looking north along Shoshone Lake. Stay as long as you’d like, and when ready, either head out the way you came in, or consider taking the slightly longer Lewis River Channel Trail back.
From Grant Village, head south along the South Entrance Road for 5.2 miles. Look for the trailhead parking lot on your right. If you see the Heart Lake Trailhead, you’ve gone just a bit too far.
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