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Elephant Back Mountain Trail

The Lake Hotel, seen far below the Elephant Back Mountain Trail, resting on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

The Elephant Back Mountain Trail is a moderate 4.25 mile hike that climbs to an overlook above Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park. Found along the southern portion of the Grand Loop Road, the hike is relatively popular thanks to its beautiful views and modest but challenging elevation gain.

Elephant Back Mountain Trail Description

The Elephant Back Mountain Trail begins along the main road, and then parallels the road for a short distance before cutting into the forest. You’ll make an easy ascent up a small hill followed by a crossing below power lines. As you continue through the forest, you’ll notice the road noise gradually begins to fade. The hiking is pretty easy for the first 0.6 miles or so, but then quickly begins making the ascent to the top of the small mountain.

Through the serene forest, you’ll find the trail leveling out for a bit as it approaches the relatively discrete fork to begin the loop. There’s no right or wrong way, so which way is up to you. For the purposes of this write-up, I headed left.

Yellowstone Lake stretching out below the forests surrounding the Elephant Back Mountain Trail. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

The trail continues up through the beautiful forest, climbing gradually through the forest. Soon you’ll begin to notice Yellowstone Lake through the trees stretching out into the distance below. You’ll then wrap around a small drainage where the trail becomes steeper as it switchbacks up the side of Elephant Back Mountain. Gaining in elevation, the views through the trees become much bigger.

Love Yellowstone? Put It on Your Wall!

Follow the trail as it continues ascending, snaking deeper into the forest. As you crest the top of the mountain, the trail levels out and becomes much easier. Once again, Yellowstone Lake provides stunning views between the trunks of the trees. A short distance later and you reach a big overlook of both the lake and the Lake Hotel. This is arguably the best view along the trail, so take the time to appreciate it while grabbing a snack.

Beyond the overlook, you’ll make a quick climb back into the woods where an easy meander through the peaceful forest continues to unfold. At about 2.5 miles in, you’ll begin to make the descent from the top of Elephant Back Mountain and back down to the trailhead.

Yellowstone Lake stretching into the distance beyond a forest lining the Elephant Back Trail. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Once again, Yellowstone Lake continues to shine through glimpses between the trees. The descent provides plenty more beautiful views as you wind down the steady switchbacks. As the descent becomes more mild, the views will also fade. Shortly after, you’ll reconnect with the fork. Head left to proceed back to the trailhead.

Getting There

From the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center, head left on East Entrance Road for 0.6 miles. Turn left onto the Grand Loop Road and head south for 1.2 miles. Look for the trailhead on your right.

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All content © Copyright Mike Cavaroc, Free Roaming Hiker & Free Roaming Photography