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Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake is the largest lake in Yellowstone National Park and the largest North American freshwater lake above 7,000 feet. It covers 136 square miles and has 110 miles of shoreline. The lake is typically covered in three feet of ice from December through May. 

Yellowstone Lake offers a variety of outdoor activities. Two most popular are boating and fishing. Boating at the lake is always an incredible experience and a great way to see the park from a different perspective. And, you have a variety of boating options, including motorboats, rowboats, canoes, and kayaks. Fishing also offers a number of options. For example, fly fishing along the 100 miles of scenic shoreline is very popular. Another option is, of course, fishing by boat. 

A couple of things to keep in mind when you visit Yellowstone Lake. Remember that, like all of Yellowstone National Park, you are in bear country. The park averages one bear attack every year. Make sure you know what to do if you encounter a bear. Another piece of advice: Don't try swimming in the lake. The average water temperature is 41 degrees (Fahrenheit
). In water that cold, survival time is around 20 to 30 minutes.


At Yellowstone Lake, you have a number of boating options: kayaking and canoeing, float tubing, and motor boating. Note that there are limitations associated with boating on the lake. Float tubing can only be done while fishing, but you still have to have a boat permit for the float tube. Motorboats are only allowed in two locations in Yellowstone. Yellowstone Lake is one of them. (The other is Lewis Lake.)

You can bring your own boat, or rent one. Boat launches can be found at Bridge Bay Marina and Grant Village. Boats can be rented at Bridge Bay Marina.

Note that Yellowstone Lake is a very large lake, and high winds and thunder storms can pop up at a moment's notice. When boating, stay close enough to shore that you can get back quickly.


Fishing in Yellowstone Lake primarily consists of fishing for trout from a boat or from shore. Specifically, you can fish for cutthroat trout or lake trout.

Yellowstone Lake is made for cutthroat trout fishing. Most cutthroat trout range from 18 inches to 20 inches, although, you will sometimes find larger ones. Fly fishing along the lake's banks is an excellent way to experience cutthroat trout fishing. One exceptional location is aroung Gull Point Drive, a little south of Bridge Bay Marina. You'll have the best luck fishing at the beginning of the summer.

In the 1990s, lake trout were discovered in Yellowstone Lake. Their numbers soared, and their presence almost destroyed the Yellowstone Lake Cutthroat Trout population. Consequently, lake trout fishing is strongly encouraged. In fact, any and all lake trout caught in Yellowstone Lake are required, by law, to be killed. They cannot be released back into the lake. Lake trout spawning is common around Carrington Island, making that area a great place to fish for them. 


We visited during a windy day and the waves off the water gave the lake a scary look. The lake is massive and awesome. Take a drive around it.
Windy Day. LiketoeatCincinnati, Trip Advisor
Yellowstone Lake is beautiful from every stop and is the highest elevation lake with many thermal features. There are areas to park along the shore and picnic or swim. We decided that we had to take advantage of the marina and a guided fishing boat. We booked the trip through Xanterra and each purchased a fishing license at the Lake General Store the day before our trip. The cost of the trip was for the entire boat (a Grady White!) and the staff carefully followed Covid-19 protocols. A ranger took our temperature when we arrived and face masks were required for the 2-hour charter. Our guide was excellent. He told stories, showed us areas of the lake, and had the equipment ready and in excellent shape. He took us to the far side of the lake where we trolled for trout. We were thrilled to catch two cutthroat trout and take pictures with them before carefully returning them to the water. They are the most widespread native trout in the park and are important because they are a source of food for birds, bears, otters, and mink. Expect to catch and release if you are lucky enough to catch one!
Reserve a fishing boat and truly experience being on Yellowstone Lake. Melaney68, Trip Advisor
We saw wildlife in the area using the lake. We had no idea there were so many ducks out there but they love this lake. Drive slow & use the pull outs! It is worth the picture.
blue like you have never seen. Jenn, Trip Advisor
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