At over 130 square miles, Yellowstone Lake is the largest North American lake above 7000 feet in elevation. Like an inland sea, it has well over 100 miles of shoreline and is beautifully ringed with mountains. It’s a great place to watch wildlife and is home to the native Yellowstone cutthroat trout—an important species to the ecosystem. The area is also great grizzly bear habitat due to the many streams feeding the lake where fish like to spawn.
Bridge Bay Marina and the boat ramp at Grant Village are launching points for boating on the lake. Scenic tours and guided fishing are available but afternoon winds and storms can whip up quickly creating waves over three or four feet so canoeing and kayaking can be dangerous. Swimming isn’t recommended due to the chilly waters—which average less than 50 degrees in the summer.
The lake is over 400 feet deep in places but averages 140 feet in depth. Its odd shape is the result of water filling the craters left by steam explosions creating odd-shaped bays. Uplift along fault lines and glacial sculpting also contributed to its shape. The lake used to be much larger, extending into Hayden Valley.
Along the northwest shore are Bridge Bay Marina and Campground, and Lake Village with a store, clinic, post office, restaurants and lodging. The large yellow colonial-style Lake Hotel opened in 1891 and is the oldest hotel operating in the park. Visitors often enjoy the music of the piano or string quartet while taking in views of the lake from the sunroom. There is an historic visitor center at Fishing Bridge to the north as well as a store, gas station and RV park.
Park roads offer great views from the lake’s western and northern shores and there are hiking trails on the eastern and southern reaches of the lake. Go ahead and enjoy the beauty, immensity and diversity of wildlife, which has drawn humans to Yellowstone Lake for thousands of years.