The Ice Lake hike is very short and flat. We did it with all the 9 cousins ages 2-9, and all but the infant walked the whole way. It is a simple out and back hike to a large lake in the central part of the park.
The trailhead for this hike is between Canyon and Norris near the Norris Junction. There is a pullout that accomodates several cars, and a bridge leading to the north into the trees where the trail starts. This trail winds through thick trees for .3 miles to the lake. The lake is surprisingly large, and shaped like a kidney bean, with much of the lake hidden out of sight. The trail is well marked and anyone can do this simple walk.
There is a split in the trail to Ice Lake, and the sign indicates that Ice Lake is both to the right and left. To take this short walk, go right. The longer hike to the left takes you around the lake or even beyond over to Little Gibbon Falls, but it is much farther. We debated for a long time and we are sure if you go left, you’ll see the lake, too. But we chose the right and it was the perfect short hike for the crowd we were with.
Toward the end of the trail, we were met by a nasty swarm of bugs, but they didn’t seem to bite. As we neared the lake, they seemed to thin out, so they weren’t much bother to us, but you may want to apply a little bug spray. When you arrive at the lake, the trees thin out and you can use your binoculars to scan the surface. The far shores are surprisingly distant, so don’t expect to see much across the water.
We didn’t see much wildlife on this walk as the trees are so thick, but there were a few birds in the lake. We saw Western Grebes, Barrow’s Goldeneye, and Mergansers.
This is a great intro hike for those driving in the west entrance and heading over to stay at Canyon or Lake.
To read about other friendly kid hikes in Yellowstone, click here.