Ribbon Lake is a small but beautiful lake that sits just southeast from the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It is surrounded by old growth forest and is actually two lakes connected by a “ribbon” of marshy area and stream, which is how the lake got its name. Surface Creek flows out of Ribbon Lake and creates Silver Cord Cascade as it plunges over the rim of the canyon 1,000 feet to the bottom
The hike to Ribbon Lake is a relatively short hike with views along the southern rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The views into the canyon from along the rim make for an especially picturesque hike, but with some element of risk. There are no guard rails along the trail and there are a few spots that might make someone afraid of heights a little nervous.
This trail system is located on the northern end of the wildlife rich Hayden Valley, so it is highly advised that the guidelines for hiking in bear country are strictly followed.
The main trailhead (Ribbon Lake) is located 1.5 miles down Yellowstone's South Rim Drive at Artist Point. (44.72093,-110.478862) South Rim Drive is located 2.25 miles south of Canyon or 13 miles north of Fishing Bridge on Yellowstone’s lower loop road. (44.708194,-110.503563)
44.707767,-110.500386) This trailhead is for those that want to do a longer hike in reverse or are doing a loop or shuttle hike.
You must pay the $25 entrance fee or have an America the Beautiful Annual Pass to enter Yellowstone National Park. The $25 entrance fee is good for 7 days.
The hike to Ribbon Lake begins at the Artist Point overlook and begins out going up and down multiple small hills as it follows the contour of the canyon rim. The trail meanders in and out of the forest along the rim while opening up to great views of the canyon along the way. After .50 a mile it comes to a junction, take a right here (44.720081,-110.470512) towards Ribbon Lake. By following the trail straight it will take you to Point Sublime and a fantastic view of the Grand Canyon. After following the trail right, the trail descends for a .25 mile while skirting an unnamed lake before it reaches another junction. Continue left here (44.716859,-110.470118) to Ribbon Lake. The right fork goes towards Clear Lake. After the second junction the trail goes through unburned forest for approximately 1-mile gaining slight elevation and then descending toward Ribbon Lake. During the descent the lake comes into view and at 1.8 miles the trail meets another junction coming from the south at the bottom of the descent. Stay left here (44.723966,-110.45186) continue on for a .25 mile to Silver Cord Cascade and campsites 4R1 & 4R2. You can get great access to the lake at 4R2 and it makes a great place for a snack or lunch break to prepare for the short hike back. Be sure to check out Silver Cord Cascade (44.725862,-110.450355) as it plummets 1,000 feet to the bottom of the canyon before you go.
This hike can be turned into a short overnighter as well by staying at one of the two campsites available 4R1 or 4R2. These sites allow fires and make for a great and easy experience for those new to backpacking in Yellowstone.
It can also be turned into a loop or shuttle hike by choosing one of the following options..
Option 1 Loop: Start at Artist Point and hike to Ribbon Lake. On the return hike take a left at the Clear Lake junction instead of a right. After approximately .50 mile (44.713013,-110.479402) Clear Lake is reached, continue past the lake to another junction with the Wapiti Lake trail. Take a right here (44.712438,-110.482599) and go another .60 mile to the end of the trail on South Rim Drive. From the end of the trail follow South Rim Drive .75 mile back to the Artist Point parking lot.
Total distance is 5.25 Miles.
Option 2 Loop/Shuttle: Starting at Artist Point hike to Ribbon Lake and take a right at the Wapiti Lake spur trail junction (44.723966,-110.45186) then proceed .80 miles to the Wapiti Lake Trail junction and take a right. From here (44.71721,-110.448148) go 2.9 miles to the Wapiti Lake Trailhead. If doing this trail as a loop hike, from the trailhead follow South Rim Drive 1.5 miles back to the Artist Point parking lot. If this hike was done as a shuttle the car awaits.
Total distance is 7.25 miles.
For trail conditions and closures you can contact the Yellowstone backcountry office at (307)-344-2160 or at the Canyon Visitor Center.
Permits & Regulations
There are no permits required for day hiking, but permits are required for overnight camping. For more information about permits and backcountry regulations, please visit the Yellowstone Backcountry Page. Please follow all the Park Rules & Regulations
Relevant Books & Maps
Hiking Yellowstone National Park by Bill Schneider
Trails Illustrated Map #201 Yellowstone by National Geographic