The Cygnet Lakes Trail, formerly known at the Plateau Trail, once led all the way to Mary Lake. The later half of the trail to Mary Lake is no longer maintained (and the first half may not be cleared that well either).
The trail leaves the Norris to Canyon Road and disappears into the woods. The first 2.7 miles gently rise through lodgepole pine forests and an occasional small meadow. This forest was partially burned in 1988. These lodgepole pine trees have an unusual way of coping with fire. Besides their annual seed cones, they produce a special "serotinous cone," which only opens at temperatures that exceed 113° F. Following the 1988 fires, up to a million seeds per acre were found on the ground. Some seeds survived the appetites of birds and rodents to produce an abundance of lodgepole saplings.
The trail continues through the forest, now gradually descending, another 1.6 miles to the southeastern end of Cygnet Lakes meadow. To your right, across the marshy meadow, lie the 5 small, shallow Cygnet Lakes. You may be lucky enough to see one of the rare trumpeter swans, which give the lake its name. A cygnet is a baby swan. These graceful birds grow to thirty pounds and have a wingspan of eight feet. Watch for their long neck to pop up like a periscope. If you see one, there is a good chance you'll see another. They often mate for life and are usually seen in pairs.
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone
The lakes have no fish, but provide prime moose and waterfowl habitat. Rest a while and watch for white pelican, osprey, blue heron, and sandhill crane. On rare occasions, swans may also be seen.