Yellowstone National Park’s Storm Point Trail: Bison, Boulders, and Beauty

Bison. They were the first thing we encountered on this hike, and I thought they were too close. I had a figure of “one hundred yards” floating around in my head as we settled our shoulders into our packs at the Storm Point trailhead. When Lisa, Nichole, Ben, and I took our first steps down the Storm Point Trail, we gazed at a lone bison far off in an open field to the west. Moments later we discovered another beast sipping water from Indian Pond, a pleasant waterhole just east of the trail.

This burley bovine was only about fifty yards away, and I cautioned that we were too close to the stately creature. After a brief discussion, we made the decision to bushwhack into the field and give the drinking bison a healthy berth. We needn’t have bothered. The recommended distance from bison in Yellowstone National Park is 25 yards. Better safe than sorry, I suppose.

A quarter mile past Indian Pond and the titanic tatanka brought us to the shore of the breathtakingly beautiful Yellowstone Lake, the largest lake above 7000 feet on the North American continent.

Steel-blue water stretched out before us, backed by the snowcapped mountains of the Teton Wilderness. A varied thrush trilled from a gnarled tree on the shore, while purple lupine quivered in a light breeze. The lake was rimmed with brushy pines. Swirling in the water at the shoreline was a pastel-yellow halo that dissipated in swirls and eddies as the water deepened. We assumed this flaxen fringe was the result of the rhyolite that gives the park its chromatic name, but a ranger informed us that the ring of color was actually the bane of Nichole and Ben’s springtime existence: pollen. Fortunately for them, the pollen was rendered harmless when soaked with lake water. After spending less than two hundred yards on Yellowstone Lake, the trail turned sharply north, away from the water, and into the woods. We would return to the lake later.

The woods were painted in shades of green slashes of pale-grey deadfall scarred the undergrowth while dark pines shot skyward. So numerous were the downed trees that we needn’t have wondered how Storm Point got its name. The north shore of Yellowstone Lake was obviously no stranger to stormy weather. On this day, though, the Storm Point Trail was pointedly storm-free. It was wide, flat, and root-and-rock free. Midsummer sunlight filtered through the trees to dapple the trail. It was an delight to hike. We whiled away the next three-quarters of a mile with little effort and easy conversation.

Eventually the trees fell away, and we emerged into an open area. Beyond a small rise, wildflowers welcomed us back to the shore of Yellowstone Lake. As we topped the rise, and the tarn came once more into view, lupine quivered in the breeze, their deep-purple petals clashing with the steely-blue water beyond.

Upon reaching the water’s edge, we turned west to investigate a narrow spit that jutted out into the lake, thinking it might be our intended destination. A map-check disabused us of that notion, as Storm Point was a thousand feet to the east and infinitely more scenic. From our position on Storm Point, Jr. (lesser Storm Point? mock Storm Point?), we could see the real McCoy, a stately outcrop of rock fringed with pines. We quit the spit and made for the point.

Storm Point is an idyllic spot. A jumble of granite extends from the shore, a stony prow cutting the waters of the lake. A copse of Engleman spruce stood to one side, and driftwood lay scattered among the rocks. Stepping out to the precipice, we were treated to a better-than 180° view of Yellowstone Lake and all the lush Wyoming countryside that surrounds it. As the afternoon progressed, the water shifted from steel to azure as the sun flashed like tiny diamonds on its rippled surface. Intoxicated from having wrung every last drop of scenic liquor from the spot, we turned northward to the trailhead.

The Storm Point Trail skirted the lake for the next half-mile, providing scenic water views as we completed our circuit. Soon we rejoined already-trodden trail and passed the thirsty bison, who, having drunk its fill, decided to have a nap in the late-afternoon sun. Moments later we were shrugging off our packs and piling into our cars.

This hike was packed with beauty. With only eighty-two feet of elevation gain and a wide, obstruction-free path, this undemanding route should be a cinch for young and old alike. The payoff is well worth the effort, and the opportunities to see wildlife are ample. The Storm Point Trail is a lollipop; the point could be reached as a two-mile out-and-back, although that would deprive you of an immeasurably pleasant stroll through picturesque pine forest. We highly recommend this hike, but note that this area is a little off the beaten path, making it all the more important to have bear spray at the ready. And if there are bison at the waterhole, remember that you only need twenty-five yards of space when you shuffle by the buffalo! ♦

Note: The coordinates below are where we started our hike, but not the official Storm Point Trailhead. That is 350 feet farther east on the Entrance Road. We started where we did because, well, it was the first trailhead we saw. Both have parking areas, and both will get you to Storm Point. Pick the one that feels right for you.

Date: July 12, 2022
Location: Yellowstone National Park, WY
Trailhead: 44.559368, -110.327708
Distance: 2.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 82 feet
Difficulty: Easy

BIT|Hiker acknowledges the indigenous peoples who are the original inhabitants of the lands on which we hike. Our research for this post indicated we were on ancestral lands of the Apsáalooke (Crow),  Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Tséstho’e (Cheyenne).

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