The Heart Lake area is another extremely popular backcountry and day-hiking area, offering easy access, a pretty lake, hot springs, and impressive mountain vistas. Heart Lake Trail begins just north of Lewis Lake (six miles south of Grant Village).
The trail is fairly easy, climbing slowly through unburned forests for the first five miles and then following Witch Creek down past burned forests to Heart Lake, eight miles from the trailhead. Witch Creek is fed almost entirely by the hot springs and geysers scattered along it.
Near the Heart Lake patrol cabin the trail splits. Continue straight ahead another 26 miles to eventually reach the isolated and challenging Thorofare Trail on the southeast end of Yellowstone Lake; getting there requires fording the Yellowstone River, which may be waist deep even in late summer.
For something a bit less remote, turn right and hike 0.5 mile to the Mt. Sheridan Trail, which heads west and climbs 2,800 vertical feet in three miles. Reaching the 10,308-foot summit will certainly leave you winded. A fire lookout at the top provides views across Yellowstone Lake and south to the Tetons.
At the base of Mt. Sheridan and just to the north is a small thermal area that contains Rustic Geyser (eruptions to 50 feet, but irregular) and Columbia Pool, among other attractions. Be very careful when walking here because of the overhanging rim at the pool edge.
Although many people simply hike to Heart Lake for an overnight trip, one could take many longer hikes out of here, including into the remote Thorofare. A complete loop around the lake is approximately 34 miles round-trip but requires two Snake River fords that are at least to your knees in late July; check with the rangers for flow levels. The Heart Lake area is prime grizzly habitat and is closed until the first of July. Do not take chances in this backcountry!
© Don Pitcher from Moon Yellowstone & Grand Teton, 5th Edition