From the trailhead, the trail enters a lodgepole pine forest heavily burned by the 1988 fires. You'll see forest fire effects on just about all of this trail. It is fascinating to watch as this forest rejuvenates itself. Expect to climb steadily through hilly terrain for much of Mallard Creek Trail.
This trail was originally designed as a winter ski trail from Old Faithful
and it still is used by skiers each winter. Hardy skiers follow the bike path to Morning Glory Pool, then the old roadbed to the Biscuit Basin area, and finally the Powerline Ski Trail
to the Mallard Creak trailhead. Then it's up to the lake and back to Old Faithful
(approximately 9 miles each way).
The trail gains 800 feet of elevation in the first 2.25 miles before crossing the intermittently dry stream bed of Mallard Creek. The trail climbs an additional 260 feet in the next mile where it tops out at 8260 feet. The final 1.25 miles of the trail runs up and down along a ridge high above Mallard Creek, on the left, with occasional nice views to the northeast. Soon the depression holding Mallard Lake comes into view. The trail ends when it intersects the Mallard Lake Trail
, 0.2 miles above 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.
Hikers can return on the same trail, or if you have arranged a car shuttle, hike to Old Faithful
via the 3.7-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
Fire ripped through this area in 1988, charring the lodgepole pines. These trees have an unusual way of coping. Besides their annual seed cones, they produce special "serotinous cones," which only open at temperatures that exceed 113Â° F. Today, you can spot an abundance of immature lodgepoles that were born in the aftermath of the fire. As the trail climbs through fire-burned areas, look for other "pioneer" vegetation. The tall, green, two to three-foot stems with multiple deep pink flowers are 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), tiny clusters of stark white pearly everlasting (whose hardy flowers live up to their name) and the spiny splendor of pink-topped Canada thistle.