Yellowstone Lake is the largest body of water in Yellowstone National Park. It is nearly 8,000 feet above sea level and covers 136 square miles. There's 110 miles of shoreline!
There are some hydrothermal features, a boardwalk, some great hikes, and more to explore in the area.
If you're coming from West Yellowstone, it's about an hour and a half drive. There are several campgrounds in the general area if you can get to them before they fill up.
Best Campgrounds at Yellowstone Lake
We'll list the best campgrounds in the area and then tell you about some of the great things to do at Yellowstone Lake.
There are 430 sites here, 300 pull throughs. Amenities include picnic tables, a fire pit with a grate, potable water, toilets, showers, a dump station, laundry, and firewood for sale.
Season: June 7 – Sept 15
Rates: $33 per night (Senior Pass holders receive a 50% discount)
There are 85 sites here, all sites are rustic so you’re boondocking. The max RV length is 25 feet. It has picnic tables, potable water, and vault toilets but no generators allowed.
Season: June 15 – Nov 3
Rates: $20 per night (Senior Pass holders receive a 50% discount)
There are 432 sites here, 165 pull-throughs. All sites are rustic so you’re boondocking.
Amenities include potable water, flush toilets, a dump station, and ice/firewood for sale Generators are allowed from 8 am to 8 pm.
Season: May 15 – Sept 22
Rates: $28 per night (Senior Pass holders receive a 50% discount)
Fishing Bridge is unique to Yellowstone as it is the only campground that is solely for RVs and offers water, sewer, and electrical hookups for RVs.
As such, it is the most expensive on this list.
There are 340 sites here. Amenities include potable water, flush toilets, a dump station, showers, laundry, and ice/firewood for sale.
Season: Closed for 2021 — plan ahead for this one!
Rates: $79 per night (Senior Pass holders receive a 50% discount)
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Things To Do at Yellowstone Lake
Once you've snagged a spot at a campground, you can go and explore one of the many great sites in the area.
West Thumb got its name because Yellowstone Lake resembles the shape of a human hand. West Thumb is the large western bay that would be the thumb.
The most famous hydrothermal feature at West Thumb is a geyser on the lakeshore known as Fishing Cone. Early visitors used to joke that you could catch a fish in the lake and then dunk it directly in boiling water to make dinner.
Other interesting features include Big Cone, the deep turquoise blue Abyss Pool, and the Thumb Paint Pots.
The boardwalk is an easy 1/2-mile loop on the shores of Yellowstone Lake.
Hikes at West Thumb
There are two short day hikes in West Thumb as well.
In the parking area, you can go to the left side of the geyser basin and pick up the trailhead for Duck Lake. It’s about 0.8 miles round-trip.
You’ll see traces of the 1988 fires and the cycle of regrowth along the trail. Plus, views of Yellowstone Lake before it descends to the Duck Lake shoreline.
Across the road is another trailhead, this one for Lake Overlook. It’s about 1.5 miles roundtrip.
The Lake Overlook trail gains about 400 feet of elevation and gives you a commanding view of Yellowstone Lake and the distant snow-capped Absaroka Mountains.
Just south of West Thumb Geyser Basin is the Grant Visitor Center.
The visitor center and development are named for President Ulysses S. Grant, eighteenth President of the United States. If you didn't know, he signed the bill creating Yellowstone National Park in 1872.
The visitor center hosts exhibits that interpret fire's role in the environment of Yellowstone and how it helps rejuvenate the forests. You’ll learn about the massive fires of 1988 that burned over a third of the park.
From West Thumb, you can go south along the lake to Bridge Bay, Lake Village, and Fishing Bridge.
In Bridge Bay, a must-do hike is the Natural Bridge Trail. The trailhead is located in the Bridge Bay Marina parking lot near the Bridge Bay campground entrance road.
This trail is an easy 1.2 mile (2.4 miles round-trip) path that takes you through the woods back to a masterpiece of natural architecture.
The natural bridge is a 51-foot high intact arch of rock that has been carved out by the eroding forces of water.
From the natural bridge, head up to Fishing Bridge and go to its namesake, the Fishing Bridge. Funny enough, fishing is no longer allowed off the bridge because of the decline of the cutthroat trout population.
The Fishing Bridge was historically a tremendously popular place to fish because it is a major spawning area for cutthroat trout. Now it has become a popular place to observe fish from above.
Maybe they should change the name from Fishing Bridge to Fish Bridge.
Hayden Valley, similar to Lamar Valley offers one of the most wildlife-rich areas of the park. In this gorgeous, broad valley you’ll be able to see:
- herds of bison
- roaming elk
- occasional grizzly bear
- many birds such as ducks, Canadian geese, and pelicans
The reason there are no trees here, as opposed to many other areas of the park, is that the Hayden Valley was once filled by an arm of Yellowstone Lake.
As a result, it contains fine-grained lake sediments that are now covered with glacial till left from the most recent glacial retreat 13,000 years ago. Because the glacial till contains many different rock sizes, including clay and a thin layer of lake sediments, water cannot percolate through the ground and retake this area as part of the lake.
Want to read more about Yellowstone? We have many helpful posts to help you plan your next adventure.
At the top of every RVers bucket list, it is a place so majestic, so wild, and so big that it calls us to return, to explore, to get to know the diversity of its land and animals over and over again.
Everywhere you look are waterfalls, fast-moving rivers, geysers, sheer rock faces, towering lodgepole pines, all framed by mountains under the bright blue cloudless sky.
It’s spectacular for those who love the wilderness and getting up close and personal with it. Enjoy Yellowstone for RV travel.