Hiking the Ribbon Lake Trail
Ribbon Lake Trail, Yellowstone National Park
Hike #7, Ribbon & Clear Lake Trails
Wapiti Lake Trailhead 4K7
Northeast Section - Moderate to Heavy Traffic
Yellowstone National Park

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Location: Northeast Section (See map to the right)
Difficulty: Easy - Out-and-back, loop or overnighter
Distance: 7.6 mi/12.3 km as a loop - 9.6 miles if you add Point Sublime (recommended)
Elevation Gain: 905 ft.
Best time to visit: July-October

Backcountry Camping: Yes. 2 sites - 4R1 and 4R2
Click here to view a list of backcountry campsites for this area.

Full Description: Read the full description or view photos of this hike.
Trail Maps: Beartooth Publishing - Yellowstone National Park

Finding the Trailhead - Wapiti Lake (4K7)
From Canyon:
Drive approximately 2.4 miles south on the Grand Loop Road heading toward the Hayden Valley. Make a left toward Artist Point. The Wapiti Lake Trailhead is located on the right just after crossing Chittenden Bridge.
Get Directions from Canyon Village

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Ribbon Lake Trailhead Location

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Ribbon Lake Overview Map
Ribbon Lake Trail Stats

Trail Details
Trail Condition: Excellent
Difficulty: Easy
Total Mileage: 7.6 mi /12.3 km as a loop
Type of Hike: Out-and-back, loop or overnighter
Wow Factor: The trip to Point Sublime is just that...sublime
Elevation Gain: 905 ft.

Nearest Facilities: Canyon Village
2.4 miles south of Canyon Village - Get Directions
Trailhead Coordinates
Latitude: 44.708612
Longitude: -110.501255

Ribbon Lake Coordinates
Latitude: 44.724438
Longitude: -110.447917

Approx. Elevations
Trailhead Elevation = 7,750 ft.
Ribbon Lake Elevation = 7,830 ft.
Elevation Gain = 905 ft.
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Ribbon Lake Photo Gallery
Ribbon Lake Trail Description

Ribbon & Clear Lake Trail Description (Wapiti Lake Trailhead 4K7) - Moderate to Heavy Traffic

Wander through open meadows near the Hayden Valley, camp lakeside near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and enjoy the spectacular scenery that surrounds this famous landmark attraction...the Yellowstone River.

From the Wapiti Lake parking lot the trail climbs briefly to a large open hillside with views south toward the Hayden Valley and northeast toward the peaks of the Washburn Range. At 0.5 miles the trail forks and you have two options: Option 1: Continue left and hike directly to Clear Lake and Ribbon Lake along the northern portion of this loop. This is the shortest route to both lakes (3.1 miles one-way to Ribbon Lake). Option 2: Travel in a counterclockwise direction along the southern loop (4.2 miles one-way to Ribbon Lake). This is how we're describing this hike.

Heading right at the Sour Creek Trail junction the landscape is wide-open with views down into the Hayden Valley. At 0.9 miles the trail splits once again, with the Wrangler Lake Trail heading right and the Wapiti Lake Trail continuing left. Stay left and the trail will descend briefly to a thermal area where the landscape becomes significantly more wooded. As you continue through this thermal area the trail crosses a small creek before entering another wooded section. At 1.7 miles the trail enters a large clearing with a small pond at the opposite end. Here you'll have another view south toward the open expanse of the Hayden Valley before heading back into the woods at the opposite end of this clearing.

For the next 0.8 miles the trail passes through a this forested section until reaching the junction with the Wapiti Lake Trail at 2.9 miles. At this point you'll leave the Wapiti Lake Trail and continue left on the Wapiti Lake Cutoff Trail, passing a small pond where the trail begins curving back and forth over the next 0.9 miles. At mile 3.5 there is a beautiful meadow with a panorama across to Ribbon Lake where the Washburn Range rises behind the treeline bordering this small lake.

At mile 3.8 the trail connects with Ribbon/Clear Lake Loop Trail. If you're planning to camp at Ribbon Lake head right and follow the signs to campsites 4R1 (★★★) and 4R2 (★★★). Both sites are somewhat shady, but are located close to the lakeshore making access to water quite easy. NOTE: There is a sign for the Silver Cord Cascade at this junction but this 1,000 foot waterfall is best viewed from the opposite side of the canyon on the Sevenmile Hole Trail

Continuing the loop: From the Wapiti Lake Cutoff follow the trail left (west) along the north side of this loop toward Clear Creek. The trail remains mostly wooded for the next mile to the junction with the Artist Point Cutoff Trail (optional hike). You can take this short connector trail (0.3 miles) to the Artist Point Trail and on to Point Sublime (highly recommended), then double back to this junction, where you would continue heading west toward Clear Lake. This optional side hike to Point Sublime will add another 2 miles to the hike. The trail to the 'point' follows the southern edge of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and has plenty of incredible viewpoints along its entire length (0.7 miles one-way). CAUTION: Loose gravel is prevalent along this section of the trail. Use extreme caution when hiking near the canyon's edge.

After returning from Point Sublime you'll enter another thermal area which continues all the way to Clear Lake. This area seemed very active and the smell of sulphur was very strong through here. After reaching Clear Lake the trail begins climbing a short hill to the junction with the Upper Falls parking lot. Stay left and you'll be back on familiar ground as the trail crosses the open hillside on the way back to the Wapiti Lake Trailhead.

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.

Nearby Hiking Trails
Mary Mountain/Nez Perce (Trailhead 4N1) - An easy hike through the wildlife-rich Hayden Valley.
Sevenmile Hole (Trailhead 4K6) - Hike along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon before dropping to the Yellowstone River.
Howard Eaton (Trailhead 4K7) - Heads south through the Hayden Valley.
Artist Point (Trailhead 4K8) - A very popular destination with spectacular views of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Nearby Campgrounds
Canyon Village Campground - Canyon Village Campground is located approximately 2.4 miles north of the Wapiti Lake 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 Wapiti Lake Trailhead to the Canyon Village 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.

Post Hike Meals
There are a variety of restaurants located in Canyon Village along with a general store.

Directions to the Ribbon Lake Trailhead
Beartooth Publishing Outdoor Recreational Maps
The following map from Beartooth Publishing covers all of the hiking trails located in Yellowstone National Park. For more information about these maps click here.

Directions to the Wapiti Lake Trailhead

Click the map to launch directions
from Canyon Village to the Wapiti Lake Trailhead.
Provides access to both Ribbon and Clear Lake.


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