Dense forest gave way to sparse thermal area which once again gives way to a completely different set of terrain. A short distance past Clear Lake you will come to a fork in the trail located in a meadow. You can continue to head south on the Wapiti Lake Trail/Ribbon Lake Trail, or you can turn west and take the Clear Lake Trail. Heading west on the clear lake trail you will go up a moderate incline, and pass through a series of meadows. Some of these, especially on the crests, have old growth trees that were clearly victims of thunderstorms past. Some are twisted as the flames leapt off of them leaving a curious looking feature. None of this area was impacted by the 1988 fires.
When you get to the meadow in the picture above, you have about a 1/2 mile left on your hike before returning to your car. Continue to follow the trail and as you climb down the hill (this is the easier way to take the loop as the last 1/2 mile is all downhill, instead of uphill coming in the other direction) and as it curves north you will see South Rim Drive. When you get to South Rim Drive, cross the road, take the trail west through the drainage ditch and then north back to Uncle Tom's Trail. The total distance traveled if you went just this loop is 4.2 miles. You can very easily turn this into eight miles for an all day hike, and more than 20 miles if you want to backcountry camp. If you took the 4.2 mile trail at a fast pace, it would have taken two hours. If you stopped for photos and to enjoy the terrain, it can take close to three hours.
I am sure that the subject of the best day hike in Yellowstone is open to debate. All of us here at OutdoorPlaces.Com hope that our article stirs you up, not only to hike our recommended trail, but to talk about your favorites. You can visit our Trip Report Archive to talk about your favorite trail, or you can go to the Hiking Discussion Forum to share your opinions.
Clickable Yellowstone Canyon South Rim Map...