Throngs of visitors create a bit of a mob scene at Artist Point overlook in Yellowstone National Park, and justifiably so. The view of Yellowstone Falls and Yellowstone Canyon from there is one of the most famous in the park. In most national parks, all it takes is a short walk up a trail to escape 95% of the crowd, and Artist Point is a great example. The trail to Ribbon Lake is fairly lightly traveled and offers a stunning contrast of scenery.
From the trailhead sign just steps from Artists Point, the trail climbs for about three-quarters of a mile along the rim of the canyon with a few short forays inland. The nearly continuous views of the colored canyon walls are stunning, where several rocky promontories attract lovers of high places. At the first junction, going straight leads to Point Sublime and more canyon views, while going right leads to Lily Pad Lake and Ribbon Lake. While walking past Lily Pad Lake, look for bubbling areas along the shore, which are signs of thermal activity in the area. The portion of the trail from Lily Pad Lake to Ribbon Lake may be strewn with downed lodgepole pine trunks and frequent flooded areas from snow melt.
The trek is worth it for the lovely secluded Ribbon Lake and the surrounding marshes. A few backcountry campsites are scattered by the shore. Great blue heron and osprey are frequent visitors, as are grizzly and black bears.
As always when hiking in Yellowstone, travel in groups, make noise while hiking, be aware of the trail ahead and carry bear spray.