Yellowstone--Heart Lake to South Entrance


Nov 23, 2015
For the last few years, I’ve been trying to do the hike from Heart Lake Trailhead down to the South Entrance. I was going to do it with one person, and it got cancelled due to Covid. The next year, the person I was going to hike with couldn’t get the time off. I don’t remember what happened last year, but FINALLY, this year, I got the sites and the permit and friends to do the hike with me! Leslie and her son, Konrad, and I did the 25-ish mile hike over four days.

From the trailhead, a few miles south of Grant Village, the trail heads east. It leads gently uphill for about four miles. We saw about 10 other hikers, including some CDT thru hikers, but mostly had the trail to ourselves.



From Paycheck Pass (I think that’s what it’s called), we worked our way down the valley, looking at the scenery and the lake and the thermal features.


We got to the end of the lake, and worked our way along the beach toward the campsite. We were at 8H6.


The camp kitchen didn’t have much of a view, but there was furniture (logs). I’m glad I brought my Helinox chair.


Konrad lives in Portland, where I’m told there is little lightening. He had grown up in an area with lightening, and missed it, so he was spending time out by the lake, watching the sky. The original weather forecast was for rain, then hard rain, then more rain, and finally, some rain. We were pretty happy when we had gotten to camp, set up, eaten, and then finally got rain. Konrad had volunteered to carry my Hammock Gear tarp, and I was surprised at just how big it was. It rained for a while, and then we went to our tents.


Day 2 arrived sunny, even though the forecast had been more negative. We were headed to Basin Lake, 8B2, about six miles away. We spent a while on the flanks of Mount Sheridan, in the sunshine, looking at the lake and the beautiful scenery.



At one point, we spotted a canoe, and a couple of packrafts out on the lake. I learned from Facebook, that a group had portaged a canoe in. It would have been nice to paddle, but that would have been a nasty portage. Though, in thinking about it, I think Grand Portage in Minnesota is maybe a half mile further. I’m not meant to portage canoes, the idea of an 8 mile portage just makes me shake my head. If someone had offered me a seat and a paddle, I’d have been first aboard, though.


Going away from the lake, things got rocky.


There was still scenery, but it was changing.


We ate lunch at a grassy area in the woods. It was really nice.


There were lots of meadows to hike through. This hike has no shortage of views. And I guess now that it’s over, I can say that we had almost no bugs. I swatted a few away, and Konrad muttered about a couple of mosquito bites, but I didn’t spray bug spray on me once, and I think it was only the first night that I used my Thermacell. It was pretty amazing.


We nestled our tents into a nice place at the Basin Lake campsite. It rained on us in the late evening, but we had the tarp to sit under.

I guess I forgot to take a picture, but this site’s kitchen was “decorated” with an elk skull with antlers.


Day 3 was bright. We were headed to the Snake River Hot Springs site, 8C1. If we got there early, there would be time to soak! Again, there were. Big, long views, and while there were a few climbs, they were usually small and over quickly.


This is Basin Lake, and a bit of a view back toward where we had come from.


Hiking was straightforward.




Just another meadow to wander by.


Lots and lots of eye candy here.



I wondered exactly how that tree got out there in the first place. I figured that somehow a beaver was involved.


Why yes, I do spend a lot of time in last place.


Looking back.


Very near the Snake River… it’s just ahead… .


Found it! It was still a long ways down, but we were close!


When we got down to the water, the ford looked harder than I had thought it would be. We decided we would do, sort of, what the video you have to watch to get a permit recommends. We crossed together, with Konrad upstream, Leslie in the middle, and me on the downstream side. During the crossing, Leslie bumped my water bottle from its usual location and it began floating downstream. Soooo, I poked at it with my hiking pole (retaining my hold of Leslie). I had taken my wrists out of the wrist straps to avoid entanglement, and the pole escaped with the water bottle. Konrad said, “wait here,” and went after them both. (I figured I had just lost a 20 year old hiking pole, “New Gear!!”) He caught both, and brought them back to me, then went back to his spot at the top side of the group. We went the rest of the way without incident. (Thanks Konrad!!!!!)

In his time in Yellowstone, I think he spotted 3 long tailed weasels. This one cooperated enough that I managed to get a picture. It’s not a great picture, but usually they are seen and gone in the blink of an eye.


During this whole day, we had seen all kinds of mushrooms. It was sort of a mushroom and valley hike.


The campsite upstream from us was a livestock site.



The Snake River, from very near our campsite.


Konrad and Leslie.


The view from my tent.


Getting ready to hike out.


It finally did rain a little on us as we hiked, but the trail entered the trees, and there were only a few sprinkles, really.


It was cool, and the hot spring was steaming.


The trail was really, *really* muddy, and the llama hooves had not helped. It did make it easier to see some paw prints. I think they were from a small bobcat, but I don’t know.


It’s sad to know you’re coming to the end of a hike, but it’s also nice. There will be dry socks and better food (than I bring), and a comfortable bed (I do like my Neoair, but still). Oh, and ICE in a cup. But it’s still sad. Leslie and Konrad would be heading back to Portland.

We still had one obstacle, though. We had to ford the Snake River again.


This time Konrad helped Leslie, and I crossed on my own. This ford was easier than the one upstream, but the rocks were still slick and squirmy, and the current pushed at you. We all managed, though. I was the first up the little hill to the picnic area/trailhead. There was a couple looking at the trail sign, and they looked at me with amazement. They had no idea where I had come from… possibly just up the little hill from the river. I was carrying a pack though, and just getting that pack up the hill was enough. We talked for a few minutes, and then Konrad, Leslie and I headed to my car. It took a few tries, but I finally know what that chunk of Yellowstone looks like!


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Nicely done @Pringles !

I'm glad you were able to achieve your goal and it was nice that you were not washed out. 8H6 is a great campsite by Heart Lake, I remember the occasional splash of Rustic Geyser in the distance as I drifted off to sleep there. Your pictures have me wanting to go back to that area.

That is a rather nice weasel picture too!
Thank you, TractorDoc. I did hear the geyser go off at night a couple of times. I had done and earlier trip past Lone Star Geyser, and told my friends that if they hear a jet plane that doesn’t move across the sky, it’s a geyser. I’m sure they believed me.
Awesome report! I'm especially happy to see it because I'm doing the same route this coming weekend, including a stay at 8C1.
Enjoy your trip, Jackson. I’m glad I finally completed it, and was surprised and happy at the lack of bugs.

And about the portage, on the man’s Facebook page they had a short bit of video of carrying the canoe upright, with a few things in it. They were at the top of the hill, heading down. I can’t imagine the grind of going up.
Cool trip, @Pringles! I enjoy that section. I've always found your last crossing of the Snake River a "romantic" spot - easily visible from the south entrance, but a tangible boundary to the feeling of wilderness.

I'd be all about hiking in w/ a packraft, but bringing the canoe is impressive. :lol: I remember thinking it'd be fun to packraft the Thorofare section of the Yellowstone. (Though - for the record - it is against regulations.)
Sounds like a great trip. We did part of your route in the opposite direction earlier this summer. Interesting to see the changing seasons already. Glad to hear you were bug-free.
Great report @Pringles. It looks like your hiking mates had a good time.

Heart Lake is a wonderful destination.

Were you able to see Sheridan Lake?

Did they let you pet the llamas?

What was your favorite part of the trip?

And finally, were the marmots out and about near those rocks on the river near your campsite on the Snake?
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Thanks for the great TR. I have yet to capture a weasel photo but will be ready. Thank you for sharing your.s Headed in the South Entrance tomorrow and will be at 8B2 tomorrow night. Basically an out and back on the Snake for Labor Day '22.
That looks like a beautiful area to spend a couple of days. Thanks for the report
Sorry I’m so late to respond. Yes TheMountainRabbit, the Snake is a magical barrier. For people who won’t leave the parking lot, it’s probably even more terrifying than that.

Scatman, I didn’t see Sheridan Lake. There were marmots out and about. I didn’t even get close to the llamas. And, my favorite part of the trip was hiking with my friends. I’ve known Leslie for almost thirty years, and hiking with her, and Konrad, was pretty wonderful. There is more… I loved going down that big valley full of thermals, and I’m proud of fording the Snake River again.

BobFink, I hope the weasel poses for you, too. I was surprised I could get my camera up, let alone take a few pictures.
Thank you TTW. I have a couple more from this year that I haven’t posted yet. I will do so.
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