The trailhead to the Mallard Lake Trail is found on the southeast side of the Old Faithful
Lodge cabins, near the Firehole River. Take the first right turn as you come into the Old Faithful
Lodge and continue down the service road past some cabins to the trailhead. There is a small area set aside for parking.
From the trailhead, the trail drops to a bridged crossing of the Firehole River. Soon the trail passes Pipeline Hot Springs on the left. This interesting area contains a mud pot and several small springs. Thereafter, the trail begins a slow, steady 800-foot climb in 3.7 miles, over rolling hills of partially-burned lodgepole pine and open, rocky areas to the lake.
The trail, which is mostly in the trees, crosses a small creek at the 1-mile mark. At 2.5 miles, it breaks out of the trees and enters a small rocky gorge affording intermittent views of the Madison Plateau and Upper Geyser Basin to the west. At 3.2 miles, the trail tops out at 8140 feet before dropping 100 feet in the last 1/2 mile to the lake. At the 3.4 mile mark, the trail passes a junction with the Mallard Creek Trail
on the left; our trail turns right and continues to the lake.
Mallard Lake is a nice-sized, 32-acre lake with a maximum depth of 30 feet. It was stocked with fish in the 1930s and 40s, and still maintains a small population of cutthroat trout. There are three backcountry campsites at the lake.
Runners can return on the same trail, or if you have arranged a car shuttle, continue to the highway northwest of Old Faithful
via the 4.4 mile Mallard Creek Trail
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone
Parts of the forest were burned by the 1988 fires. As the trail climbs through fire-burned areas, look for "pioneer" vegetation. In early summer, look for tall, green, two to three-foot stems with multiple deep pink flowers known as "fireweed," in recognition of their ability to populate burned-over areas.
Other plants that enjoy the increased sunlight include colorful clumps of purple lupine (distant relative of the Texas bluebonnet), and tiny clusters of stark white pearly everlasting (whose hardy flowers live up to their name).