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Little Gibbon Falls to Ice Lake Loop

The shores of Ice Lake winding into the distance below storm clouds. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

The Little Gibbon Falls to Ice Lake Loop is an easy 4 mile loop in Yellowstone National Park that passes a beautiful waterfall on its way to a serene glacial lake on the Solfatara Plateau. The hike can be started at either the Ice Lake or Wolf Lake Trailhead, and can be hiked counterclockwise, or clockwise. For the purpose of this post, the starting point was the Wolf Lake Trailhead hiking counterclockwise (ie, waterfall first, then lake).

Little Gibbon Falls to Ice Lake Loop Trail Description

From the Wolf Lake Trailhead, cross the road and head back east a short distance. The marked trail will enter into the woods there. You’ll parallel the Gibbon River as it twists through an open meadow while the trail stays just inside the treeline. You’ll then reach a large meadow. On the opposite side of the meadow, you’ll make a quick ascent up a hill.

Forest Surrounding Little Gibbon Falls
A large forest surrounding Little Gibbon Falls along the Gibbon River below the Wolf Lake Trail. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

As you wind around the hill, you’ll begin to hear Little Gibbon Falls in the distance. Sure enough, you reach a steep overlook with the beautiful waterfall cascading below. The 25 foot waterfall is a gorgeous site in the dense lodgepole pine forest.

Beyond the falls, you’ll cross the Gibbon River and then make an easy and gradual ascent up another hill through the forest. Just on the other side of the hill is the junction with the Ice Lake Trail. Head left to begin to head to Ice Lake.

The Ice Lake Trail will descend easily through the forest, soon reaching the Gibbon River once again. You’ll either need to use the downed logs to cross or ford the river, through on a dry day the downed logs should work very well. Past the river crossing the trail smooths out for easy hiking down to Ice Lake.

Gibbon River Cutting Through Forest
The Gibbon River cutting through a dense forest along the Ice Lake Trail. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

First appearing through the trees, Ice Lake comes into view spreading into the distance. Shortly after you’ll pass the first of three backcountry campsites. If not occupied, it makes for a great view and place to relax. Moving past the campsite, the trail wanders through the trees near the shore. Along the way you’ll make a small ascent up a rise before descending once again. Shortly after you’ll reach the second backcountry campsite.

Once you pass the second backcountry campsite, you’ll reach a junction with the Howard Eaton Trail. Take a left at this junction. You’ll wind around the lake’s western shore at this point, occasionally finding a nice vantage point of the lake receding eastward.

You’ll then veer a bit away from the lake. Following this you’ll reach the last junction, a spur trail with the third and final backcountry campsite. Continue straight to head back to the trailhead. You’ll make an easy descent through the forest where you’ll then cross a small footbridge at the trailhead.

Common Loon Pair in Ice Lake
A mating pair of common loons swimming in Ice Lake. Yellowstone Natinoal Park, Wyoming

Back onto the main road, turn left and hike 0.25 miles to the east down the road to reach the Wolf Lake Trailhead once again, closing out the loop.

Getting There

From Canyon Village, head 7.75 miles west on Norris Canyon Road. Look for the Wolf Lake Trailhead on your left.

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Mike@FreeRoamingPhotography.com