Yellowstone & Grand Teton Boat Trip


Aug 9, 2007
As mentioned in another thread, I have secured permits for a big boat trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone at the end of this summer. It's still a ways off but I'd like to start planning things out and would love input from anyone who might have it. I'll be camping out of my pontoon boat and plan to attach as many kayaks as needed to it to allow for some nice paddling, particularly in the remote south and southeast arms of Yellowstone Lake.

Here's my plan so far:

Days 1-3: Jackson Lake, Grand Teton NP (2 nights)
I have Little Mackinaw Bay reserved. It's not very far from the marinas but it is the only site on Jackson Lake that actually has a lake view toward the tetons! I'm just kind of planning on relaxing and cruising around for that part of the trip. I'm not sure if I'd even kayak there since the lake is so big and doesn't have the motorless/wakeless fingers to explore.

Days 3-6: Yellowstone Lake (3 nights)
I have site 7M3 booked one night and 7M5 booked for two. Tentative plan is to try and catch some monster cutthroats and head down into the southern arms and do some paddling. Is there anything else I should hit while I'm out there? It looks like there is a geothermal area on the east side of the SE arm that could be cool. Worth anchoring the boat and going for a hike to it? What else?


Jan 26, 2012
Did I mention I'll be working over there? :) Just in case you need help filling that permit.

Scott Chandler

Wildness is a necessity- John Muir
Jan 4, 2014
So freaking jealous!

I kayaked around in Colter Bay once. It wasn't a bad way to spend a few hours. So maybe kayaking near the shore and bays would be doable where you'll be camping?

Again, jealous.


Mar 3, 2013
If its the geothermal area I'm thinking it is nothing, but white dirt..


Aug 9, 2007
So freaking jealous!

I kayaked around in Colter Bay once. It wasn't a bad way to spend a few hours. So maybe kayaking near the shore and bays would be doable where you'll be camping?

Again, jealous.

Yeah, that actually does look nice. Lots of little channels and stuff over on that east side by our camp in Little Mackinaw. I'm thinking it'll be fun to just paddle or slow cruise the shoreline there looking for wildlife. I was just reading up how low Jackson Lake has been which could cut a lot of those channels off though. I guess last year it got so low they had to close the Colter Bay Marina in August. According to this article, it got down to around 18% of capacity last year. Right now it's only at 30%. Crazy...
Jan 23, 2012
Currently the Snake River drainage is at 124% of normal and the Yellowstone River drainage is at 130% of normal.


Dec 23, 2013
Let's take a stab at this. Since your sites are on the west side of the lake, you could explore Flat Mountain Arm. I did this a number of years ago when I canoed down the west side from West Thumb. I paddled to the end of the arm and then hiked in a couple miles along the drainage where I got to see elk, a nearly intact moose skeleton, and wonderful grizzly tracks in the mud. When I was done hiking, I sat down on an old log and watched bald eagles and osprey diving into the water of Flat Mountain Arm to catch fish. I could have sat there all day!

Another option, depending on how much you want to get after it, is to hike to Delusion Lake. In order to do this you will have to hike through downfall and new growth (a result of the 1988 fires) which can be physically taxing, but I can guarantee you that few people have visited this body of water since the fires.

Switching over to the Southeast Arm, I think Brimstone Basin is still worthwhile to see. I was a touch disappointed that there weren't more thermal features present, but it is a different kind of landscape with a nice view of the Southeast Arm and the Promontory.

A hike to the top of Langford Cairn is worth considering. From the top you have excellent views of the Yellowstone River delta and the beginning of the Thorofare.

Another possibility is a day hike to Trail Lake which is located just southeast of the Southeast Arm. You could leave your Kayak at campsite 6A4 and hike along the Trail Creek Trail until you get to Trail Creek where you would then hike off-trail to the lake. There used to be an official trail to the lake but the Park Service abandoned it after the '88 fires which mean downfall and new growth - best to stick to the drainage. The hike along Trail Creek to Trail Lake is not too bad and once at the lake you have a nice view of Turret Mountain to the east.

Any hike down into the Thorofare would be worth your time for it is truly wild country, though paddling in then doing a lengthy day hike would make for a long day.

Well, I hope this gives you some options to consider.
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