Trailhead: North of Alum Creek pullout, 4 miles south of Canyon Junction
Distance: 21 miles one way
Level of Difficulty: Moderately strenuous if you do the entire hike in one day
Mary Mountain has two trailheads: the eastern trail (noted above) climbs gradually up over Mary Mountain and the park’s Central Plateau to the Nez Perce trailhead between Madison and Old Faithful. Elk and bison can sometimes be seen in the distant meadows. The trail through Hayden Valley is often difficult to follow as bison regularly knock down the trail markers. The western trailhead is a few hundred feet north of the Nez Perce Creek pullout. Mary Mountain makes for a long day hike, and you will need to have a vehicle awaiting you at the opposite trailhead. For shorter day hikes, the trail affords good opportunity to walk as far as you wish and then turn back. Be aware that Mary Mountain trail traverses grizzly territory, so look for posted signs concerning grizzly activity.
Photo Above: Bison traverse a meadow near the western end of the Mary Mountain trail. Photo by Bruce Gourley.
Trailhead: 3.5 miles east of Norris on the Norris-Canyon road
Distance: 0.3 miles (0.5 km)
Level of Difficulty: Easy; handicapped accessible backcountry site on lake
Ice Lake is a beautiful, small lake tucked in a thick lodgepole pine forest. Much of the area was heavily burned in the fires of 1988. There is a network of trails in this area, and kikers can continue from Ice Lake to Wolf Lake, Grebe Lake, and Cascade Lake, and then on to the Canyon Junction area.
Trailhead: 3.5 miles (5.6 km) west of Canyon Junction on the Norris-Canyon Road
Distance: 6 miles (9.7 km) roundtrip
Level of Difficulty: Moderately easy
Mainly used by fishermen and backpackers, this trail goes to Grebe Lake, which (along with Wolf Lake) make up the headwaters of the Gibbon River system. The lake is home to the Artic Grayling, a rare and unusual looking fish native to Yellowstone. Various waterfowl (ducks, loons, gulls and swans) also frequent the lake. The trail winds through both meadows and forest, much of it burned by the fires of 1988. Beginning on an old road bed, the trail eventually narrows into a footpath through the lodge pole pine forest. Deer and moose are oftentimes spotted along the trail and at the Lake. Be prepared for heavy concentrations of mosquitoes in June and July.
Pictured above: Moose on the shore of Grebe Lake. Photo by Bruce Gourley.
Trailhead: Pullout about 5.5 miles west of Canyon Junction
Distance: 8 miles (14.4 km) roundtrip
Level of Difficulty: Easy
This trail travels through intermittently burned lodgepole pine forest and past small marshy ponds to the lush meadows surrounding Cygnet Lakes, which itself is small and boggy. The trail is day use only, and the trail not maintained beyond Cygnet Lakes. Bears are known to frequent the area.
Trailhead: Cascade Lake Picnic Area, 1.5 miles north of Canyon Junction
Distance: 4.5 miles (7.2 km) roundtrip
Level of Difficulty: Easy
This easy hike is an enjoyable stroll through forested areas, open meadows and over small creeks. Look for wildlife and wildflowers in the spring and early summer months. Most years, this trail remains very wet and muddy through July.
Photo: Cascade Lake, courtesy National Park Service