This 11.6-mile section of the Howard Eaton Trail (HET) from Cascade Lake to Norris Campground is one of the few remaining sections of the historic HET. Automobiles arrived in Yellowstone in 1916 and it was quickly apparent horses and cars did not mix. To accommodate saddle-horse parties, a 157-mile trail following the main highway was cobbled together “joining abandoned old roads, connecting existing game trails and making a trail route through open meadows with guide posts and signs.” The trail, dedicated in 1923, was named in honor of Howard Eaton, the “Dean” of Yellowstone saddle-horse guides.
From the trailhead, the HET skirts the western shore of Cascade Lake then gently climbs 100 feet in the first 1.1 miles. As you near the highpoint, the trail bends right around the southern terminus of the Washburn Range and crosses an almost unnoticeable hydraulic divide. Behind you, the water drains into Cascade Creek and the Yellowstone River. Ahead, the water drains into the Gibbon River and on to the Madison and Missouri rivers. The waters meet-up again at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers near the Montana, North Dakota border.
At the 2-mile mark, the trail reaches 156-acre Grebe Lake and a junction with the Grebe Lake Trail
. The HET continues around the northern side of the lake passing a number of nice campsites before reaching the lake’s outlet at 2.8 miles. Fishing is excellent here for rainbow trout and rare Arctic Grayling.
Grebe Lake is the headwater of the Gibbon River and the HET follows the Gibbon for the next 2 miles. At 3.9 miles the HET makes its first of 4 Gibbon crossings. Here the Gibbon flows into and then out of 50-acre Wolf Lake (good fishing and campsites). The trail passes south of Wolf Lake and again fords at 4.2 miles. Then the HET rolls up and down through the trees and twice fords the Gibbon (at 4.7 and 6.9 miles), passes the Wolf Lake Trail
at 6.4 miles, and reaches Ice Lake at 7.2 miles.
The HET continues along the north side of heavily-treed, 53-acre Ice Lake (poor fishing) before passing the Ice Lake Trail at 7.9 miles. In the last 4.4 miles, the trail drops 450 feet, along the way crossing Norris Meadow (at 9.9 miles) and fording Solfatara Creek just before ending at a junction with the Solfatara Creek Trail
, a 1/2 mile from Norris Campground.
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone