Experience the Majesty of Yellowstone Lake at These Ideal Locations
Dominating Yellowstone National Park maps as the scenic centerpiece of the world’s first national park, Yellowstone Lake is a breathtaking sight to behold.
Not only is it North America’s largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet in elevation, it also sits directly over the caldera that powers the park’s unique hydrothermal features, such as Old Faithful geyser and Grand Prismatic spring.
Yellowstone Lake is simply massive, with over 136 square miles of surface area. It’s nearly 400 feet deep at it’s deepest point, and is frozen over from early December until late May or early June.
It’s home to native Cutthroat trout and invasive Lake trout, making the lake an outstanding fishing destination for people and wildlife alike.
If you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone Lake is a must-see. But with 110 miles of shoreline, how do you choose the best place to check out Yellowstone Lake?
This guide will walk you through the five best places for Yellowstone visitors to access this stunning mountain lake.
Bridge Bay Marina and Campground
The best way to experience any body of water is to venture out in a motorized watercraft, so Bridge Bay Marina is certainly a prime spot for visitors looking for a trip across Yellowstone Lake.
The marina is located along the Grand Loop Road at the lake’s northwestern edge, southwest of Fishing Bridge and Lake Village.
You can rent boats with outboard motors as well as rowboats at the marina, or take a scenic cruise on the Lake Queen. This is a great family activity that gives you an opportunity to hear about the park’s history while trying to spot wildlife on the shore. You might even be able to spot the wreck of the E.C. Waters on Stevenson Island.
The marina is also where you’d go to book a guide fishing boat, but for these journeys, reservations are required, so be sure to book well in advance of your trip. Don’t forget your fishing permit, either.
The nearby Bridge Bay Campground offers outstanding lake and mountain views. It’s also one of the few areas in the park with cell reception.
Lake Village and Hotel
Just a few minutes north and east of Bridge Bay Marina, Lake Village is home to a hotel, lodge, cabins, excellent dining, a general store, a ranger station, and even a post office.
This area certainly has a style and character all its own, so even if you’re just stopping for lunch, be sure to include this destination in your Yellowstone travel itinerary.
Just across the Grand Loop Road from Lake Village is Elephant Back Trailhead, which offers a fantastic hike.
Adults can order a beverage from the bar or restaurant and sit outside on the porch to enjoy pure mountain air and wonderful lake views.
The westernmost lobe of Yellowstone Lake, there two primary areas to explore along the shore.
The first area is simply known as West Thumb, and it’s where the South Entrance Road intersects the Grand Loop Road.
Here, you’ll find the West Thumb Geyser Basin, which includes a number of springs, geysers, and pools along the lake shore, with a trail that allows you to see them all. You can also make the short hike to nearby Duck Lake.
The West Thumb area features parking, a public restroom, and an information station for visitors.
The second and much larger location is Grant Village, accessible just south of the West Thumb area along the South Entrance Road.
This developed area includes service stations, stores, a visitor center, dining room, lake house, ampitheater, and lakeshore pavillion.
Grant Village Campground is nearby. At an elevation of 7,800 feet, it’s one of the larger campgrounds in the park, with 430 total sites.
If you’d like to enjoy a delicious meal with stunning lake views on your Yellowstone trip, the Grant Village Lake House Restaurant is the place to be.
Mary Bay and Sedge Bay
Between Fishing Bridge and the East Entrance to Yellowstone, a portion of the road will take you past Mary Bay and Sedge Bay.
There are a few perfect spots here to pull off the road and stretch your legs between destinations, and there’s nothing quite like the view of Yellowstone Lake from this area on a clear day.
If you have a raft or kayak, this is a great place to launch when the water is calm.
The meadows across from the lake area superb areas for seeing wildlife, especially bison. You can spot bears, elk, deer, pine martens, and other animals in this area, as well.
If you stop here, you’ll also see — and smell! — a few minor thermal features.
Lake Butte Overlook
Overlooking Sedge Bay and accessible from a turn-off just a minute or two southeast along the East Entrance Road is the Lake Butte Overlook.
Situated on the edge of Lake Butte and above Nine Mile Trailhead, Lake Butte Overlook is a simply stunning place to look out over Yellowstone Lake and appreciate it in all its glory.
When the sky is clear enough, you can look south to see the jagged, imposing Tetons, which make an absolutely stunning backdrop for this pristine lake.
Fortunately, there’s a restroom here, which makes this overlook a superb place to stop and enjoy a quick snack or put your new camera through its paces.
Depending on whether you’re entering or leaving the park, this is your first or last opportunity to get a good glimpse of Yellowstone Lake, so be sure to make the most of it!