Hiking to Cascade Lake in Yellowstone National Park

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Hiking to Cascade Lake, Yellowstone National PArk

My wife is the oldest of three siblings, so when her youngest brother settled into starting his Ph.D. earlier this year, I think that set off a small amount of anxiety in my father in-law. Not for the schooling, but because life was changing. You know? So he lobbed this idea of taking a full-on family road trip to see Yellowstone National Park in the summer of 2013; it's a trip he'd always meant to take his kids on, but other trips made thier way to the top of the priority list every year. His kids were now moving on to their adult lives, and who knows how much time each of us has left, so we all made it happen. "We" means me and my little family of four, my mother and father in-law, and my wife's sister and brother. We eight souls shoehorned ourselves into two cars, then Griswolded to the mountain pueblo of West Yellowstone in two and a half days. We surely consumed 30-some cups of roadside gas station coffee and a few In-N-Out double-doubles with cheese to fuel the experience. Road trip, baby . . . with family. I was the only one not related by blood, so my strategy to survive and thrive looked like this: shut up, get along, smile and nod, be helpful. It comes naturally to me, if I do say so myself.

We rented a cabin in Cooke City, Montana right on the creek and just outside the northeast entrance. Every day we drove through Lamar Valley, notably at dusk when the mountains glow and the green valley meadows come to life with critters. You might spot elk, pronghorn, or a wolf out there. Our mistake, considering where we bedded down each night, was trying to experience all corners of the park because that meant four to six hours of driving each day. At the close of three days, I was toasted, rode hard and put up wet. Everybody was toasted. I had noticed a trailhead to Cascade Lake, and joked to my wife on one of those exhausting drives that it sounded peaceful and relaxing at Cascade Lake, but too bad we didn't come to relax.

So we probed, "why don't we just stay longer and go slower?" On the first morning of our newfound strategy to absorbing the beauty of Yellowstone National Park, we decided to go see what Cascade Lake was all about. We hit a home run with this one. It was July, the wildflowers had just peaked. The flat trail weaves through thigh-high grass and flowers and, oddly, we had it mostly to ourselves. It's an easy hike, 5 miles round-trip, to a gorgeous mountain lake of cutthroat and grayling where elk, moose, and bears come for a drink; and there was nobody there but us. The crowds come to see the roadside "thermal features" and bison (so did we), but find a trail and you'll leave behind much of the chaos. Enjoy the photos.

Distance: 4.5 miles round trip

Difficulty: Easy; the trail is flat, well-maintained, and features very few hills.

How to Get There

There are two trails to Cascade Lake, the one mentioned here is 1.5 miles north of Canyon Junction on the Canyon-Tower road. Parking is on the west side of the road.

More Information

NPS website for Yellowstone National Park >>>
PDF map of the park >>>

Tip: click a photo to enlarge, then use your left/right arrow keys to scroll through the pics


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