Heart Lake, Yellowstone


Nov 23, 2015
Last winter, I sat in my chair and looked at maps and books and web pages and I made PLANS for hiking this summer. When the time came, I made reservations, and *I* was ready! I had reservations to hike around Shoshone Lake. I knew that Kevin, who had done a Bechler hike with me last year, wanted to go to the Shoshone Geyser Basin, so I asked if he’d like to join me. He was willing, so on the appointed day, we went to get the permit. But there was a problem. The backcountry situation report had indicated that two or three days previous, someone had indicated they had slogged through a mile of knee deep mud, just before the geyser basin. I asked about it, before getting the permit, and the volunteer who gave permits indicated that she had friends who had done that two weeks ago, and it was fine. But the situation report was dated Monday, and this was Thursday... . She countered again that her friends had done it two weeks before and it was fine. After another round of debate, she actually went and LOOKED at the situation report, and suddenly began looking at other options for us. We tried to find a different way to do Shoshone, but none appeared, and we ended up with reservations at Heart Lake. I was still excited about that, as I was intrigued by it enough that I had reservations for the place about a month later. I asked about the geyser by the campsites. The same ranger volunteer informed me that there was no geyser. I told her that the book had indicated there was, and she went into a rant about how that wasn’t a good book, that the good book was... . We got the permit and left. I was frustrated; Kevin was chuckling.

We got to the trailhead, and another hiker took our pictures. This was our “clean and fresh” picture.


The trail was supposed to be approximately 4 miles of gentle up, and then 4 miles of less gentle down. Most of the first four miles were in woods.


There were dead trees and downed trees, and flowers. The grade was gentle, and it was nice walking.


There were occasional meadows and streams.



As we neared the four mile mark, there were a few views of what was to come.


The flowers were quite nice.


A little view, and then back into trees.


Woah. We’re going *there*!


It looked like a golf course with a lot of sand traps.



Just a little closer. The trail goes down this drainage. It’s called Witch’s Creek, and as with many things named in the 1800’s, by rough and tumble men, if it refers to the devil or witches, it’s an area or formation they thought was other-worldly. This valley is sprinkled with thermal features, and it was a treat to hike through.


The trail was less gentle going down than it had been going up, but it was manageable. Maybe I was distracted by the scenery, though.


This was a large thermal formation. I could hear it breathe or roar or something. I’m guessing that in there somewhere is a fumarole.


Oh yes, the lake’s still there. We were to camp on the right side of the lake.


Most of the way down, the trail was in meadows. Most of the meadows had thermal features of some type.


Hot springs.


It seemed like we’d gone a couple of miles from the top, but we still had a long ways to go, or at least it looked like we did.


Another thermal pool.


That’s Mount Sheridan. Waaaaay up on top is a fire tower. Kevin was going to go there tomorrow. I was going to drink coffee, stare intently at the lake or the mountain, or take a nap. That looks to be a long ways up there.


Pretty soon we saw the Ranger cabins. The cabins were all closed up, and no rangers appeared. We sat on the little bench out in front of the cabin, for a break, but soon enough moved on the little bit to the lake.


Heart Lake and Mount Sheridan. Our campsite would be a bit to the left of center, on the lake. It was about half a mile from here, or a little more.


The trail went along the lake.


The trail to the campsite wandered among downed trees. At this point, there’s that mixture of tiredness, and interest in seeing exactly what the campsite offers. Some are wonderful, some not so much.


This was a nice site, with a view of mountains on the other side of the lake.


Last light of evening. (Sorry the horizon is crooked... the lake didn’t drain because of it.)


Kevin went to the top of Mount Sheridan the next day. I’ll let him post some pictures of that. Here are some things I found around camp. To me, this looks like Mistletoe.


This was one of the trails through the campsite.


A swan came by to see what I was up to. I wasn’t up to anything, so the swan swam away.


I sat and looked out over the lake. It was pretty restful.


The camp kitchen was near the lake, but not on the lake.


I had a visitor.


The view from inside my tent, as the sun was setting.


The view on the final morning. We had decided we would get up “early,” pack, and hike to the ranger station for breakfast. Then, while it was hopefully still cool, we would assault the hill.





As we left our campsite, and headed toward the ranger station, we saw the geyser go off. That’’s the geyser that the volunteer lady said didn’t exist. The one that was described in the bad book. (Can you see me rolling my eyes? I thought you could.)


More of the non-existent geyser.


After we ate, we had to climb the hill. Kevin was in the lead—as usual.


I’m not sure why this is half size. Oh well.


These flowers brightened the way.


At one point, a grouse fluttered past Kevin. This meant there were chicks around. It also meant there was a nutso of a mother grouse. She put on quite a display, and I thought she was going to attack both of us.



This is her “attack the shins” stance.


Progressing up the hill.


This is the last picture I have, though I have no idea why. I thought I took many more. I certainly used picture taking as an excuse to stop and breathe. We were to work our way to the white area in the top left, then disappear into the woods.


At the top of the hill we decided we would sit and eat lunch... looking back over the lake and the mountains. There were a few nice rest spots and we stopped and looked back at where we had been.

Back in the woods, Kevin stretched his legs and pulled away. I think he got to the trailhead about 20 minutes ahead of me, but it could have been more. I do know that when I got there, he had a cold can of Coke for me. After taking off my pack and dumping it in the trunk of the car, we headed off to Grant Village and had cheeseburgers and ice cream. I think we earned them. :)
Last edited:


Dec 11, 2015
Excellent report. Thanks.

When I hiked in 25 years ago, we could feel the heat from the thermal area under the trail at one point, which was a bit unnerving. Was that still possible?

I also saw a goshawk swoop down on a ruffed grouse about 2 miles from the trailhead which was pretty cool; for me, not the grouse.


May 16, 2016
Beautiful area, thanks for sharing


Feb 12, 2018
I would like to post some additional photos and eventually I will. In between our two hikes, I had several days to my self, which I filled with various day hikes. I also spent some time on my cell phone in the parking lot at Canyon on morning on a job interview. Shortly after I got back to Washington I heard back, which is why I can’t post up some photos today. In between early August and today, I have accepted a promotion in California, put my house up for sale and accepted an offer. I also made an offer on a new house here in Visalia. The house in Washington closes next Tuesday and the one here Friday. I have to go back up and get my wife, who has put up with living in a mostly empty house since September 1, as I had to pack most things before I headed south. Since I am in short term housing for another week or so, my internet service is a hotspot off my phone, not the best for uploading photos. In the meantime I have hiked in Sequoia, Yosemite and the last couple weekends in the Mojave as I explore the area. Not to steal the thread, but if anyone is around this area and wants to go for a hike, let me know. I don’t mind driving a bit either at is was 700 miles to Yellowstone from my house and a bit further to Utah for my twice yearly trips there.

Some comments about the trip into Heart Lake. I will definitely put up a few photos of my solo trip up Mt. Sheridan when I get my internet service hooked up. A great hike, even given the elevation gain, but until recently I hiked in the Cascades so I was more or less prepared. Awesome views from the top, from north to south and east to west. Easily the best views I have seen in the park, well most expansive anyway. I thought the view going back up from the lake to the top was better then the way down, but I almost walked backwards the whole way. Near the bottom in the big avalanche debris field I came accross what looked like 3 trail runners walking as there was a fair amount of incline, the funny part was the one in front walking up the trail with his bear spray in his hand and his arm out in front of him. Now I had been in the park for almost a week at that time, but, I had taken a couple of showers and shaved (after all I had a job interview a few days prior, nobody goes to a job interview without a shower and a shave, even a phone interview), no way I looked like a bear! I did step well off the trail while they went by.

The grouse attack - hmm, I have seen lots and lots of grouse and harvested my fair share. I thought she was funny, once my heart started again, good thing we were near heart lake! Ended up seeing two of her little chicks.

I was slightly worried that I would have to visit Pringles over at the federal lock up in Mammoth before the disagreement with the volunteer ranger settled down. I started to pay close attention to the taxidermy in the office about then. My biggest concern though was that the permit was in her name, if she put the volunteer out of our misery, there was no way i was going hiking.

As is the case last year, an excellent hike!!! My great appreciation to Pringles for thinking of me again and even inviting or putting up with me inviting my wife Laura along, even though she didn’t get to come due to work. Next year might be a different story as her last day is In two days as she prepares to come to Visalia this weekend for good.

Take care everyone! Pringles I hope you make it through the long white season up your way! I will drop you a line soon.


Nov 23, 2015
Outdoor_Fool, at no time did i feel any heat from the trail. That would have been scary. Thermals can open up anywhere at any time, and geeze, that would have really scared me.

Kevin, you have to post pictures of your new hiking grounds, or it doesn't count. And you need to post pictures from this hike when you get a chance. Did you get a picture of the little chicks? As to the park volunteer, she was ornery and healthy when I left that backcountry office, and probably gave bad information to people for the rest of the season.


Bob Wire

Dec 21, 2013
My wife and I met two friends at the trail head in 1974. They spent the evening in the bars in Jackson and arrived just in time to hit the morning trail with us. They brought only food from a gas station, mostly bean dip and chips, one had sneakers, the other only cowboy boots. We ridiculed them a lot. Arriving at Heart lake, we found that while we brought plenty of backpacking food, we had forgotten our utensils. I decided to go fishing since at least we could have fish on a stick over a fire. My friends laughed at us while they gleefully ate chips and dip. Third cast, success although as I retrieved the spinner in,the fish was playing quite weirdly. When I finally got it in sight, it appeared very long and silver. Turned out I had somehow snagged a fork around its shaft with my treble hook. No shit! We shared the fork and 2 days later the guy with the cowboy boots had to walk out barefoot because of severe blisters on the way in. Good old daze


Feb 12, 2018
Well, We are moved into the new house and better yet, internet is installed so I am done using the phone as a hot spot!!! I have also had a bit of time to get my photos from this trip and the end of summer uploaded and ready to pick and choose. With no further words, here is some eye candy, I do have a few more photos I need to find as I have a couple I can't find I want to post.

The Trail headed towards the lake...

2019-07-24 12.00.41.jpg

One of the first views of Heart lake
2019-07-24 12.11.57.jpg

A photo the next morning looking out at the lake from my tent.
2019-07-25 05.13.08.jpg

and then mama and babies....

2019-07-25 05.13.49.jpg

ready to head up to Mt. Sheridan, I suppose this is a warning, not sure how after 8 miles of trail, to get here, you wouldn't realize it could be a bit steep in places....

2019-07-25 06.46.50.jpg

Lots of avalanche debris at the bottom, the trail goes straight up through this for awhile before beginning the switchbacks...

2019-07-25 07.07.41.jpg

Looking back down to where Pringles is enjoying her chair along the lake shore...

2019-07-25 09.30.06.jpg

almost to the top, but a bit of snow along the north sides of the ridges still...

2019-07-25 10.32.03.jpg

the trail heads along the ridge, just above the snow here to the lookout.

2019-07-25 10.57.52.jpg

and one final photo from the next morning on our way out. We are close to the ranger station, watching a coyote hunt in the creek bottom.

I hope you enjoy. This is a great hike. sunrise from the lake shore is fantastic. I saw some elk and deer on the hike up Mt. Sheridan, we saw the coyote and numerous birds, not to mention the thermal features that don't exist. My thanks to Pringles for the great company, not to mention the invite.


Nov 23, 2015
Great pictures Kevin. I’m really glad you could do the hike with me. The beautiful pictures from the Mt. Sheridan hike almost make me wish I had gone with you, at least a little ways. But there was coffee that had to be consumed!
Similar threads
Thread starter Title Forum Replies Date
shredhiker Yellowstone Heart Lake September 2022 Backpacking 8
P Yellowstone--Heart Lake to South Entrance Backpacking 13
TractorDoc Yellowstone's Heart Lake -- September 14-17 2020 Backpacking 32
Joey Backpacking Yellowstone's Snake River, Heart Lake, and South Boundary Trail Backpacking 13
Joey Backpacking Yellowstone's Heart Lake down to the Snake River Backpacking 12
Jackson Heart Lake and Snake River for Labor Day Backpacking 23
tropicalwanderer YNP : 8/31-9/7 : Heart Lake to Nine Mile via CDT, South Boundary and Thorofare Trip Planning 9
misSOULa The Great Burn Wilderness: Heart Lake Backpacking 3
Mountain Wanderer Heart Lake, Montana Backpacking 6
Keith Heart Lake and Mount Sheridan July 27 to July 29 Backpacking 6
Outdoor_Fool Yellowstone - Through the Heart of the Park Backpacking 12
Perry Confused by my Heart Rate During a Brisk Walk General Discussion 3
LarryBoy A Route In Between: Mexico to Canada Through the Heart of the West Backpacking 50
WasatchWill Beehive Traverse - Through the Heart of Capitol Reef's Waterpocket Fold Backpacking 39
TheMountainRabbit Black Lake (Rocky Mountain NP) - January 2023 Hiking & Camping 3
Ross Any Lake Powell experts who can advice on changed conditions at dramatically new lake levels? Trip Planning 3
NorthwestWanderer Backpacking Grand Teton National Park : Fossil Pass,Fox Creek Pass,Indian Lake,Alaska Basin,Hurricane Pass,Ice Floe Lake,& Snowdrift Lake Backpacking 19
NorthwestWanderer 8 Day High Sierra trek : Humphreys Basin, Star Col, Granite Park, Lake Italy & Piute Canyon 6/25-7/2/22 Backpacking 7
TractorDoc Yellowstone's Wrangler Lake, Bog Creek, Joseph's Coat Springs, Broad Creek, Wapiti Lake, Hot Springs Basin, and Pelican Valley. The Second Half. Backpacking 15
kwc Another Southern Adirondacks hike - Clockmill Pond and Rock Lake Hiking & Camping 0
TractorDoc Yellowstone's Wrangler Lake, Bog Creek, Joseph's Coat Springs, Broad Creek, Wapiti Lake, Hot Springs Basin, and Pelican Valley. Part One of Two. Backpacking 61
kwc Round Lake, north central Adirondacks, in the Round Lake Wilderness On The Water 2
scatman Pacific Creek, Moss Lake and Gravel Lake - Teton Wilderness - October 7, 2022 Backpacking 32
TractorDoc Yellowstone's Hayden Valley, Trout Creek, Beach Lake, and Arnica Creek Meadows. September 11, 2022. Hiking & Camping 7
balzaccom Obata Lake...xc in Yosemite Backpacking 0
scatman Grizzly Lake - September 7, 2022 Backpacking 31
P Yellowstone, one night by a lake Backpacking 19
kwc A Few More Photos from Scatman’s Grizzly Lake trip … Backpacking 3
P Scatman's Grizzly Lake hike, 2022 Backpacking 28
scatman Shoshone Lake Lollipop Loop - Yellowstone National Park - July 24, 2022 Backpacking 63
T How big are the Mirror Lake campgrounds in the Porkies? Trip Planning 6
Georgia Yankee Apostle Islands, Lake Superior (again), June 2022 On The Water 4
kwc Adirondack Hike to Middle Lake Hiking & Camping 0
K Hello from the Salt Lake Valley Noobs: Introduce yourself! 2
J Lake Powell at 3528 feet General Discussion 1
WasatchWill WRHR: Day 5 - Camp Lake to Titcomb Basin Backpacking 15
WasatchWill WRHR: Day 4 - Halls Lake to Camp Lake Backpacking 17
WasatchWill WRHR: Day 3 - 'Desolation Valley' to Halls Lake Backpacking 15
J Lake Mead NRA and Sloan Canyon NCA summit and vista hikes. Nov 21-25, 2021 Hiking & Camping 0
scatman Grizzly Lake - Yellowstone National Park - September - 2022 Meet Up (Members Only) 149
Jackson Hearst Lake Hiking & Camping 10
P Overnight at Ice Lake, Yellowstone Backpacking 4
TrailScot Lake Powell and the 'return' of Glen Canyon General Discussion 24
Jackson Hollow Top Lake Backpacking 13
TractorDoc Yellowstone's Shoshone Lake, Ouzel Creek, and Three Rivers Junction -- September 13-16 2021 Backpacking 62
TrektheWorld Crater Lake and Lone Eagle Peak Backpacking 1
randakag Anaconda-Pintler: Lake of the Isle?? Trip Planning 0
TractorDoc Off Trail to Yellowstone's Aster Lake and Upper Witch Creek -- September 13, 2021 Hiking & Camping 13
Bob Wind Rivers - Lee Lake Loop Backpacking 6
NorthwestWanderer Backpacking Idaho's Cecil D. Andrus-White Clouds Wilderness : O'Calkens Lake & Bighorn Basin Backpacking 2

Similar threads

Don't like ads? Become a BCP Supporting Member and kiss them all goodbye. Click here for more info.