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.
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.
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.
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!