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Yellowstone Backpacking Guides
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Yellowstone Hiking Vacation

Yellowstone Backpacking

Highlights

  • Camp on the shores of a pristine lake
  • Witch Creek, an amazing thermal stream
  • Stunning views from Mount Sheridan
  • Quintessential Yellowstone meadows and river valleys
  • Amazing Snake River hot springs
  • Point to point wilderness hike
  • Potential to see bears, wolves, moose, bison & more

Description

This Yellowstone backpacking trip features an amazing array of classic Yellowstone highlights in a remote, backcountry setting. It's also fantastic wildlife country: while soaking in a thermal creek on the shores of the Snake River, one of our groups looked up to see a pack of wolves 30 feet away, pups and all! Unforgettable experiences like that are absolutely possible on this trip, along with spectacular views, deep wilderness, wonderful hiking, thermal features and pristine camps!

We'll explore one of Yellowstone largest lakes, whose shores and waters host a fantastic variety of wildlife including elk, deer, moose, wolves, coyotes, fox, grizzly bears, black bears, swans, pelicans and more. We'll traverse Witch Creek, a steaming, thermal-fed stream that empties into Heart Lake. On the slopes and summit of Mount Sheridan we'll enjoy some of the biggest and best views in Yellowstone. Then remote, vast meadows, the famous Snake River, a thermal creek we can soak in, and more great wildlife country round out this trip and make it one of the best!


Trip Dates

  •   September 15-19, 2019
  •   August 10-14, 2020
  •   September 14-18, 2020

BACKPACKER Trip
Difficulty:
Solitude:
Bozeman, MT
5 days
30+mi / 48+km
$1105 Per Person

Taxes & Fees

Travel to Bozeman


BACKPACKER Treks

About BACKPACKER Treks
BACKPACKER Logo

BACKPACKER Treks are for experienced backpackers to join fellow, like-minded BACKPACKER readers on extraordinary group adventures in the United States. Yellowstone, Utah, the Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, Death Valley and more - these trips are in world-class backpacking destinations! These trips are 100% for readers of BACKPACKER Magazine and are not advertised to any other demographic. BACKPACKER readers are passionate about hiking, camping, wilderness and backcountry adventure - perfect company for like-minded companions!

Unique Adventures
BACKPACKER Adventures

These trips have larger participant:guide ratios (8:1) than on normal Wildland Trekking trips, allowing for lower price-point rates. The reason we can go with higher ratios is because participants must be experienced backpackers. The guide(s) will cook dinner each night but outside of that all meals are the guest's responsibility. Gear is also the guest's responsibility. Transportation, permits, reservations...etc. are provided. Just show up with your food, gear and passion for backpacking and have a blast connecting with nature and fellow backpackers!

Trip Itinerary

Day 1
  • Shuttle to Trailhead: 3.5-hour drive
  • Hiking Mileage: 8 miles
  • Elevation Loss: 385 feet

We begin this Yellowstone backpacking adventure from the Heart Lake Trailhead in south central Yellowstone, where we’ll enter a burn area from the famous 1988 Yellowstone fires. Now over a quarter century old, the cleansing, regenerative effects of the fire are clearly evident. Factory Hill (9,607’) dominates the southern view as we ascend a gentle plateau overlooking Witch Creek and Heart Lake, two classic backcountry Yellowstone features. A number of hot springs pour into Witch Creek, raising its temperature to nearly 200 degrees Fahrenheit! We hike along Witch Creek through another burn area and then enter a meadow before joining Heart Lake. The largest trout ever caught in Yellowstone (a 43-lb. lake trout) was caught here. Along the lake’s western shore is Rustic Geyser, which is occasionally active.

Day 2
  • Hiking Mileage: 7.0 miles (optional day hike)
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 2,858 feet each way

We'll spend day 2 hiking to the summit of Mount Sheridan. Mount Sheridan was named in 1871 by Captain Barlow after General Philip H. Sheridan, a distinguished soldier who often visited the park and worked for its interest. At 10,308 feet the peak lies a whopping 2,858 feet above Heart Lake. Our hike winds its way through meadows and forests up the northwestern shoulder of the mountain. Once atop the peak there are spectacular 360º views of the Grand Teton, Lewis Lake, the Absaroka Mountains and Yellowstone Lake. Also atop the summit is a fire-lookout - hard to believe living up here through the summer thunderstorms!

Day 3
  • Hiking Mileage: 10 miles
  • Elevation Loss: 500 feet

Following breakfast we’ll proceed south along Heart Lake’s western shore through open country where wildflowers abound. Hiking directly beneath Mount Sheridan we’ll see a number of characteristic avalanche chutes that exhibit precisely where massive avalanches have swept down on the lake. It is no wonder forests struggle to take hold here!

Once south of the lake we’ll hike through thick forest to the open and marshy glen that holds Sheridan Lake. After passing another lake (the picturesque Basin Creek Lake) we’ll descend to our camp on the Snake River near a number of thermal springs. One of these springs flows with a surprisingly high volume and contains beautiful blue algae accustomed to extreme temperature. The spring continues for approximately 1/4 mile before flowing into the Snake River - a fantastic spot for soaking. Those who wish may take advantage of soaking in the springs with a spectacular view of the surrounding canyon.

Day 4
  • Hiking Mileage: 5.5 miles
  • Elevation Loss: 300 feet
  • Shuttle to Bozeman: 4-hour drive

The final day we’ll hike out along the Snake River to the South Entrance. It is a beautiful 5.5-mile hike through stands of lodgepole pine, spruce, and fir with potential wildlife viewing.

5-day BACKPACKER Amendment

For BACKPACKER trips this route is done in five days. For a 5-day itinerary we’ll stop at Basin Creek Lake to camp on the third night. Basin Creek Lake is a beautiful spot to camp and breaks up the trip nicely by shortening the long hike between Heart Lake and the Snake River. It also allows for more time exploring the breathtaking canyons that descend into the Snake River.




Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary access restrictions, weather, lodging/campground availability, guest ability/injury, natural events like fires and flooding, and other potential causes.

Trip Details

What's Included

  • A professional, knowledgeable, certified trip leader (full-time Wildland Trekking guide)
  • Roundtrip transportation from your hotel in Bozeman, Montana to Yellowstone and back
  • Backcountry dinners in the field
  • Bear cannisters when/where required
  • Entrance fees and national park permits
  • Emergency equipment including a company-issued first-aid kit and satellite phone
  • You will receive a Lifetime Hiking Membership entitling you, your spouse and kids to a lifetime discount of 10% off any Wildland Trekking hiking trip after your first one!


What's Not Included

  • Backpack, tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, trekking poles, cooking gear (gear list below)
  • Breakfasts, lunches and trail snacks
  • Clothes, raingear, and footwear (Oboz hiking shoes and boots recommended) (clothing list below)
  • Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
  • Trip leader gratuity (industry recommendation is 10+% of trip cost)


Optional Gear List

  • Trekking poles
  • Backpacking stove and fuel (if your breakfasts only need boiled water, guide can boil water for the group in the morning at camp eliminating need for personal stoves and fuel)
  • Waterproof matches and/or lighter
  • Water filter (guide can filter water for the group at camp but if you would prefer to bring your own)
  • Camera, spare batteries
  • Notebook or paperback book
  • Vitamins
  • Fly fishing gear, if you want to fish (area-specific)


Important Packing Note

Please leave a shoe-box's worth of room in your pack for accommodating approximately 5 pounds of group gear that the guide will disperse to the group on the night of the trip orientation. Group gear will include food items for the group dinners as well as group dinner cookware, stoves, water filtration, etc.


Group Dinners

Your guide will plan and prepare all of the dinners for the duration of the trip for the group. Our prepared backcountry dinners include a diversity of tasty meals packed full of critical carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We carry foods that travel well in the backcountry – rice, pastas, lentils, beans, couscous, packaged meats, etc.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.


Gear List

  • Multi-day backpack (recommended 4000-5000 cubic inches)
  • Backpacking tent
  • 15 degree sleeping bag (down or synthetic)
  • Sleeping pad
  • Trekking poles (optional)
  • 2 1-liter water bottles or hydration system and a water bottle
  • Headlamp or flashlight and extra batteries
  • Bowl, plate, mug, fork, spoon, folding pocket knife and personal cookware needed for your breakfasts and lunches
  • Folding pocket knife
  • Waterproof matches and/or lighter
  • Backpacking stove and fuel
  • Camp pillow, lightweight, packable camp pillow.
  • Contact lenses and glasses if you wear contact lenses please also bring a pair of glasses - your contacts are likely to become dirty and may be difficult to clean
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm
  • Bug repellent, preferably a product containing at least 25% "DEET" (some people are sensitive to this product)
  • Toiletries, and a small washcloth in stuff sack (bandana can serve as a washcloth)
  • Camera, spare batteries (optional)
  • Notebook or paperback book, (optional)
  • Knee braces, if needed
  • Prescription medicine, please inform your trip leader of any medications you are taking
  • Vitamins, (optional)
  • Fly fishing gear, if you want to fish
  • Money, for tipping your trip leader (optional but appreciated, generally 10+% of your trip cost based upon the quality of your experience)



Clothing List

  • Sturdy Hiking boots, mid weight, lug-soled, above the ankle, waterproof and ideally well broken in Important note: Buy your boots 1/2 size to 1 size larger than your street shoes to allow for feet swelling and thicker socks
  • Lightweight tennis shoes or Crocs®, for camp
  • Hiking socks, one pair for every two days of your trip, plus an extra pair to sleep in. Recommended brands include Bridgedale®, Smartwool®, or similar padded socks (wearing thin liner socks under your hiking socks is highly recommended). No cotton socks!!
  • Gaiters
  • Sunhat or baseball cap and bandana
  • Mosquito head net
  • Warm hat and gloves, sherpa style hat and light-to-mid weight fleece or wool gloves
  • Long underwear, one pair of wicking tops and bottoms that are light-to midweight, example materials include capilene, merino wool, polypropylene, etc.
  • T-shirt or nylon travel shirt
  • Warm top, mid-weight shirt, sweater or pullover, also wicking material such as merino wool, fleece or polypropylene
  • Fleece jacket or insulated coat, warm, lightweight and packable fleece jacket or coat insulated with a synthetic material
  • Nylon pants and shorts, or zip-offs
  • Bathing suit
  • Fleece pants (late August and September backpacking trips and Basecamp Trip only)
  • Rainproof jacket and pant - Waterproof/breathable jacket and pant such as Gore-Tex® or coated nylon - with the pants look for side leg zippers or a style that will allow you to remove them without removing your boots

Trip Logistics

How do I Register?

Ready to hike? In the Dates section of this trip page, the green dates are bookable online by simply clicking on the date, and blue dates must be booked through our customer service team for a variety of possible reasons. To email our customer service team, you can click here to get the ball rolling. Our adventure consultants will confirm availability, and if you're ready to register we'll email you a link to a registration profile. You'll have 72 hours to complete your profile (and that of any dependents) and pay the deposit ($500).

Feel free to call us for more info - we're here 7 days a week!


Where Do We Meet?

You'll meet your hiking guide and group in Bozeman, Montana for an orientation meeting at 5:00 PM the evening before the trip begins. Your guide will be in contact approximately 2 weeks before your trip and will specify the exact location of the orientation meeting at that point. The next morning we'll pick you up at your hotel for transport to the trailhead.

Check out our Travel Resources page for information on flights, shuttles, lodging and more.


Start/End Times

Your guide will inform you of the first day's pick-up time at the orientation meeting. Generally, you can expect it to be between 5 and 8 am, although the exact time will depend on current weather and road conditions. We will drop you off at your hotel on the final day no later than 7 PM.


Safety Considerations

Your safety is our top priority. Our hiking tours are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are wilderness-certified first responders or EMT's, each with years of guiding and wilderness experience. We've developed comprehensive risk management protocols that our guides adhere to in case of an emergency, and most tours carry a satellite phone. If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) for more information.


Guides

Your tour will be led by a trained, experienced professional with a solid guiding background, years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. Check out our Meet Our Team page for staff bios.


Guide Working Parameters

Guides are required to take 8 hours off each 24-hour period to sleep, recuperate, take personal/down time...etc. In addition, as part of the 8 hours off they must sleep/rest or be in their tents/rooms uninterrupted for a minimum of 5 hours each night. We ask guests to respect these requirements and to not interrupt guides' off time and sleep time unless there is a true emergency.


Group Size and Age Restrictions

The standard group size on BACKPACKER trips is 8 guests and 1 guide. If you have more questions about group size, please give us a call at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) and we'll answer all your questions.

Age restrictions are as follows:
  • 14 and older to join this trip


Weather in Yellowstone

Being a Northern mountain environment, Yellowstone is prone to sudden temperature and weather shifts. This is an exciting aspect of being in Yellowstone. On the Spring/Fall Trekking Adventure in June, snow is a slight possibility, and the rest of the summer you're likely to get rained on at least once during your trip. To be fully prepared, please follow the recommended clothing list closely (this list comes as part of your trip packet when you register). See below for average summer temperatures in Yellowstone:
 
Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)
 
 
Month
High
Low
 
June
70°
42°
 
July
80°
47°
 
August
78°
45°
 
September
68°
37°

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