Harlequin Lake Hike in Yellowstone

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Harlequin Lake in Yellowstone National Park is a short, easy hike to a nice, calm lake. This hike starts between West Yellowstone and Madison Junction so this is the perfect hike to do on your way into the park. As you enter from West Yellowstone, drive 12.3 miles to the sign (pictured below). If you’re coming from the other direction, it is a mile and a half west of Madison Junction. To get to the trailhead, park at the pullout on the south side of the road and walk to the north and east. There is a lot of traffic on this road, so cross carefully to the other side. A trailhead marker identifies this hike as Harlequin Lake and the path enters the thick trees.

Watch for this sign on the side of the road.
The trail begins through the pine trees.
The path is clear and you’ll be walking through the thick forest the entire time.

The path rises steadily but not steeply. It continues north for around a quarter of a mile, climbing gently through the thick trees along the way. We were lucky and saw a snowshoe hare on the trail, but it’s unlikely you’ll see much else as it is so thick. Eventually the trail turns west (left) and continues to climb. The trail is easy to follow and well defined. It is only .4 miles to the lake, which becomes visible gradually on your right.

Sometimes we walked under the trees!
There is a ton of deadfall along the trail.
We saw this beautiful snowshoe hair on our hike.
The lake is very peaceful and we have never seen anyone else on this hike.

There probably aren’t fish in the lake, and it is full of reeds and moss, so it would cost you a lot of fishing tackle to find out. Lily pads also cover part of the lake. We generally see a lot of waterfowl on this lake, though we’ve never seen a harlequin duck. Buffleheads, mallards, teal, ring-necked ducks, and wigeon seem pretty common. The lake is rather large, running several hundred yards. There is a trail that continues along the shore for a short way. We didn’t follow it to the end because we found an open place and then turned back.

There were many kinds of ducks in the water.
We found an open area to explore, but you can walk along the edge of the water down to the far trees in the picture before the trail peters out.
A momma bear with two cubs was in the area, so we carried bear spray on our hike. Always be aware of bears when hiking in Yellowstone.

Harlequin Lake is an awesome introduction to the park that any toddler can do. It is less than a mile roundtrip, and on the way back to the car, it is all down hill!

Harlequin Lake is beautiful!

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