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The South Rim - Clear Lake Loop Professional Review and Guide
"This trail overlooks the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and its two thundering waterfalls -- Upper and Lower Falls. The trail passes Lily Pad Lake en route to the spring-fed Clear Lake, completely surrounded by forest in an active thermal area containing boiling water holes and bubbling mud pots. It is a magnificent hike with a variety of scenes."
--Robert Stone, Day Hikes in Yellowstone National Park (Day Hike Books).
I loved this hike--incredible views of both Upper and Lower Falls, the canyon, an area of steam vents, and then pretty meadows before returning to the parking lot. Easy to combine with hikes to either falls. There are tons of people at the lookouts near the parking lots, but you can enjoy the views more when you get away from them. Watch for bison near the steam vents--we almost ran into one! Also there have been bear spotted in the meadow area recently. Bring your bear bell.
This was a great family day hike. It was great fun to be out on our own exploring a bit of backcountry. Easy to do, short and interesting. Terrific canyon views for the first half (if you go clockwise), 2 nice lakes, lodgepole forest, meadows and a small backcountry thermal area that was a treat in a spooky sort of way. The backcountry thermal was SO different from the usual boardwalk-ed areas you get used to around the main geyser basins and makes you think about how early visitors must have stumbled upon these areas. A small herd of bison blocked our way at the very end in the meadow and we had to take an impromptu detour which was also fun. Not for hardcore hikers but great for the rest of us looking for a couple hours for a great family activity.
Great canyon views on the first part of the hike. Altitude makes this first a bit of a huff-and-puff for novices like us, but doable. trail passes through eerie woods with many very old downed trees--reminds you of the enchanted forests in Wizard of Oz and Lord of the Rings. pass the lake and head to the campsites where picnicing is great right on the canyon rim.
If you wanted to do one hike and experience many of the eco systems of Yellowstone this is the hike! It starts out steep and is moderately difficult, but about the time you get really tired your at the top. It's also a fairly long hike and will take you a few hours, mainly because you'll be stopping for LOTS of pictures.
This probably isn't a good trail for little kids because you get VERY close to the edge of the canyon and it's a moderate hike with a tough start. Kids over 8 or so would be fine.
This is a very cool hike... almost magic in how the trail changes from Canyon to woods to Lilly pad lake to clear lake (geothermal feature that is very cool !) then a walk through a geothermal field (stay on the trail) and then you hike through a meadow and back along the canyon.
You may want to park a car at Uncle Toms to cut off the end of the hike (if you got 2). Your tired and it's all up hill back to the car if you leave it at the falls.
If you a good hiker and you are acclimated to the altitude this is a A+ hike. Bring LOTs of film !
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