Cygnet Lakes Trail Description (Trailhead 4N3) - Light Traffic
The Cygnet Lakes Trail is located at the northern edge of the vast Central Plateau. This immense area of the park is seldom visited and the Cygnet Lakes Trail is one of only two hikes that offers access into this region. Lodgepole pines dominate the landscape and the effects of fire can be seen along the trail to these peaceful backcountry lakes.
This is another easy hike located between Canyon and Norris. In 2012 a forest fire closed this trail but it's open once again and in good shape. The hike is very mellow and provides an up-close look at the effects of wildfires on the Yellowstone landscape. The scenery is very typical of both the Solfatara Plateau and the Central Plateau, with intermittent forests of lodgepole pine mixed with dead and fallen trees that were burned by forest fires.
As you leave the Cygnet Lakes pullout the trail enters a young lodgepole forest and heads east before quickly turning in a southwesterly direction. At about 0.9 miles the trail passes the first of many small ponds that dot this landscape. Another larger, more prominent pond is set back from the trail at mile 1.0 and is an easy walk from the main trail which takes you to the edge of a meadow that borders this larger pond.
At mile 2.0 the trail climbs a small hill where a beautiful meadow stretches off to the east. The undulating skyline of the Absaroka Beartooth Mountains stretch across the distant horizon. This is the highest point along the trail at around 8,400 ft. and it makes for a nice day hiking destination in itself.
Within another 1.5 miles the trail enters an area that was burned in the summer of 2012 and it is here the landscapes turns gray and black. The remains of fallen trees charred by the fire crisscross one another like a jumbled network of decaying limbs. The needles on trees located near the edge of the fire were turned a reddish brown and provide an interesting contrast against the bright greens of the still-living trees.
Leaving the burned area the trail continues heading southwest. As you near the lakes the forest grows much thicker as if it were trying to hide the way to the lakes. As you leave the confines of the forest you enter a large meadow where the eastern most lake is just visible on the horizon to the right (west). The ground surrounding the lakes is very flat and it's difficult to gain any elevation that might offer a better view. The six individual lakes run in a northwest direction and a variety of waterfowl can be spotted floating in the shallow waters as you approach the lakes. Marsh marigold grows in abundance in the damp soils that surround these peaceful and isolated backcountry lakes.
NOTE: An unmaintained trail on the opposite side of this meadow continues southwest towards Mary Lake and the Mary Mountain/ Nez Perce Trail. This is a difficult trail to follow through dense forest and is not recommended for anyone unaccustomed to traveling off-trail.
A Special Thanks
The next time you visit a ranger station make sure you thank the rangers for all of their hard work maintaining the trails in Yellowstone. The effort that goes into keeping these trails clear of debris is an overwhelming task and we are certainly grateful for the trail maintenance they provide throughout the park.
Click here to download your FREE Yellowstone Backcountry Trip Planner - Contains backcountry campsite information, backcountry permit information, park service phone numbers, bear management information and hiking/backpacking checklists.
WARNING: YOU MUST BE WELL PREPARED and carry the necessary equipment to make your hike a safe one. You are responsible for your own well-being while trekking in these remote wilderness locations. Help or rescue can be hours or even days away.
Read more about obtaining Yellowstone Backcountry Permits.
Ice Lake (Trailhead 4K2) - See the Chain of Lakes link below
Wolf Lake (Marked - no trail number) - See the Chain of Lakes link below
Grebe Lake (Trailhead 4K3) - See the Chain of Lakes link below
Cascade Creek (Trailhead 4K4)
Cascade Lake (Trailhead 4K5) - See the Chain of Lakes link below
Chain of Lakes (Ice, Wolf, Grebe & Cascade Lakes)
Canyon Village Campground - May 31st - Sept. 8th - Canyon Village Campground is located approximately 4.9 miles east of the Cygnet Lakes Trailhead and has 273 sites with a special section for tents only. Campsites are $29.00 per night. Includes 2 showers per day. Campground has flush toilets. Reservations are accepted. Click here to make online reservations or call: 1-866-439-7375. Generators are permitted from 8am - 8pm. A gas station, lodging, general store, restaurants, laundry, dump station, and visitor center are located at this campground - Get directions from the Cygnet Lakes Trailhead to the Canyon Village Campground.
Norris Campground - May 17th - Sept. 30th - Norris Campground is located approximately 7.5 miles west of the Cygnet Lakes Trailhead and has 100 sites. Campsites are $20.00 per night. Reservations are not accepted. Generators are permitted from 8am - 8pm - Get Directions from the Cygnet Lakes Trailhead to the Norris Campground.
Yellowstone National Park Backcountry Permits
Overnight backcountry permits can be obtained at the Canyon Backcountry Office. Hours vary depending on the time of year - (307) 344-2160. Read more about obtaining Yellowstone Backcountry Permits.