Although Canoe Lake is an interesting trail leading to Yellowstone's rugged eastern boundary, it is seldom taken because of its remote location and other more interesting trails in the area leading to the Hoodoos or Bootjack Gap. To reach the Canoe Lake trailhead, one must first work their way 7.5 miles along the Lamar River Trail
, then take an additional 7.9 miles on the Miller Creek Trail
. This makes the round-trip mileage to Canoe Lake and back almost 40 miles. It is possible to continue east out of the park along the National Forest Service's Timber Creek Trail and reach the Sunlight Basin Road. But that too is a totals 40 miles.
From the trailhead on the Miller Creek Trail
, the Canoe Lake Trail climbs steeply up an open ridge, gaining 700 feet in the first mile. After that, it levels a bit and enters the forest for several miles. The trail parallels the Calfee Creek as it leads to Canoe Lake, but is well above the water for most of the way and there are infrequent views. The last mile, the trail begins to break out of the trees and affords nice views of the surrounding area.
The trail to Canoe Lake follows one part of the old Bannock Trail. From 1840 to 1878 this 200-mile trail was used by Bannock, Shoshone and Nez Perce Indians to traverse Yellowstone and reach the rich buffalo hunting grounds to the east, in Montana and Wyoming. The trail used a number of passes through the rugged Absaroka Range. Historians believe that a pass near this area may have been used by the Nez Perce in 1877 in their fighting retreat from the US Cavalry. Native American's use of the trail may have had a role in the naming of Canoe Lake.
At the 3.75 mile mark Canoe Lake is reached. The lake itself is quite small, but scenic. The trail continues another 1/4 mile and ends at the park boundary.
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone