Bechler River Traverse
- Yellowstone's famous Bechler Valley
- Largest backcountry geyser
- Shoshone Lake & Shoshone Geyser Basin
- Camps near lakes, rivers & waterfalls
- A soak in riverside hot springs
- Several breathtaking waterfalls
- Potential to see wildlife
- Vast meadow systems & river valleys
You will not experience a hike as unique and wonderful as this traverse of the famous Bechler River Valley in Southwestern Yellowstone! It is our most popular Yellowstone hiking tour because of the opportunity to experience the hallmark features of Yellowstone in the backcountry, away from the crowds. Having it all to yourself, you'll enjoy stunning geysers, serene rivers and streams, crystal-clear lakes, hot springs (yes, you can soak in them!), tumbling waterfalls, succulent wild berries, world-class trout waters, and the classic vast river meadows of Yellowstone, all in a backcountry setting.
Trip Dates & Booking
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- Shuttle to Trailhead: 2.5-hour drive
- Hiking Mileage: 6.3 miles + 5-mile optional day hike
- Elevation Gain: 400 feet
- Elevation Loss: 150 feet
This Yellowstone backpacking trip begins with a bang as we hike to the largest backcountry geyser in Yellowstone: Lone Star Geyser. If we’re lucky we’ll see its 30-45 foot eruption of scalding water. From Lone Star we hike along the Firehole river and over the continental divide before arriving at our camp, Shoshone Meadows. After setting up camp we will hike without packs to Shoshone Lake, one of the largest wilderness lakes in in the lower 48 states and the backdrop for the Shoshone Geyser Basin. The basin contains an abundance of geysers, each seeming to possess its own personality: there are bubbling pools, frothing potholes, bizarrely shaped mounds spewing fountain-like streams into the air and grumbling crevasses.
- Hiking Mileage: 8.5 miles + 1-mile optional day hike
- Elevation Gain: 600 feet
- ELevation Loss: 1,100 feet
The second day's hike begins with a climb to the high point of the trip, a plateau of lush meadows and thick forests. A long day’s hike brings us to the headwaters of the Bechler River and then a ways into Bechler Canyon. After making camp near the river we’ll explore the valley’s first remarkable feature: "Mr. Bubbles," a series of hot springs fit for royalty. Bring your bathing suit because we’ll take some time to lounge in the hot water while enjoying the peaceful scenery of Bechler Canyon.
- Hiking Mileage: 5.1 miles
- Elevation Loss: 800 feet
Hiking further downstream we’ll encounter two long river crossings which could be as deep as three feet - your guide will carefully assist the group across each one. Our exciting work fording the river will be rewarded with two grand waterfalls: Colonnade Falls, a two-part waterfall - the second of which is the highest on the hike, and Iris Falls. Camp will be a mere five minute hike from Colonnade Falls.
- Hiking Mileage: 7.1 miles
- Elevation Loss: 200 feet
- Elevation Gain: 200 feet
We’ll hike the lower part of the canyon which is flanked on the south by berry-laden boulder fields; a popular foraging ground for black bears and hikers alike! Once we exit the canyon we’ll hike through beautiful Bechler Meadows (where we sometimes see moose and bison) and make camp near the luxurious hot springs at the base of Dunanda Falls; where Boundary Creek flows over a large cliff.
- Hiking Mileage: 8.1 miles
- Elevation Loss: 200 feet
- Shuttle to Bozeman: 3.5-hour drive
After our final breakfast in the backcountry, we pack our gear and hike 8 miles through the lush meadows and stands of lodgepole pine where we arrive at the Bechler Ranger Station. Once in the vehicle and heading back to Bozeman, we sit in quiet contemplation of the wonderful memories of our Yellowstone adventure.
This hike is often done in four or six days. For a 4-day itinerary we’ll skip Dunanda Falls and hike on to the trailhead. For the 6-day itinerary a layover day is added either on day 2 at Shoshone Geyser Basin or day 5 at Dunanda Falls.
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.
- Top-of-the-line tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and technical backpack
- Use of trekking poles
- All meals are included from breakfast the first day through lunch on the last day
- A professional, knowledgeable, certified Yellowstone hiking guide
- Roundtrip transportation from your hotel in Bozeman, Montana to Yellowstone and back
- Entrance fees and national park permits
- Bear safety equipment including bear spray cannisters and food-hanging gear
- 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!
- Clothes, raingear, and footwear
- Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
- Water bottles and a headlamp or flashlight
- Guide gratuity (industry recommendation is 10-20% of trip cost)
All of our hiking and backpacking tours 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, nuts, breads, oatmeal, granola, and more.
For optimal taste and energy, we supplement all our meals with spices, herbs, oils, cheeses, butter, sugar, and fruits and vegetables (fresh and dried). In addition, we provide you with with an assortment of trail mix, snacks, and dried fruits to eat at your own discretion.
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.
We provide all group gear which includes the following:
- Deuter or Osprey backpacks
- Sierra Designs, Kelty or Big Agnes tents
- Sierra Designs, Kelty, Big Agnes and Mountain Hardware sleeping bags
- Thermarest or Big Agnes sleeping pads
- Leki or Black Diamond trekking poles
- Cooking stoves and cookware
- Bear spray cannisters and food-hanging gear
- Company-issued first-aid kit
- Satellite phone
We ask that you supply a couple of gear items on your hiking tour. These items are two 1-liter water bottles per person and either a headlamp or flashlight per person. Basic items like sunscreen, bug repellent (where and when applicable), lip balm, and toiletries are also important. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.
Please refer to the trip packet for a recommended clothing list (we email you a detailed trip packet when you inquire and when you register). All trips require a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots (reliable brands include Montrail, Lowa, Merrell, Vasque, and Salomon), rain gear, and non-cotton and cotton clothing layers. A minimum of three pairs of wool or synthetic hiking socks are also required. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.
NOTE: See the Packing Lists page for more detailed information on what clothes and gear to bring on your hiking tour. The trip packet you receive when you contact us will have the most accurate clothing and gear list for the tour you're interested in.
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!
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. For Private Yellowstone Tours, you also have the option to originate your trip in West Yellowstone.
Check out our Travel Resources page for information on flights, shuttles, lodging and more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The standard group size on backpacking trips is 6 guests and 1 guide, with a maximum of 10 guests and 2 guides. 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:
- 12 and older to join scheduled tours (mixed groups)
- 5 and older to join private tours, with final approval and specific logistical requirements (such as porter or stock assist) determined on a case by case basis
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)|
Camping on Backpacking Trips
Sleeping on backpacking trips is in premier 1-person, 2-person or 4-person backcountry tents. Solo travelers, and anyone else who requests it, are issued single tents. Top-of-the-line self-inflating sleeping pads and sleeping bags (professionally laundered after every trip) are also provided.
Fresh & Delicious
Meals from breakfast Day 1 through lunch the last day are fully included and prepared by your guide. We never use dehydrated backpacking meals, instead serving freshly prepared, delicious backcountry cuisine made with a variety of common and specialty ingredients that travel well in the wilderness.
In the Action
Of course campsites vary tremendously by destination, trip and even by the individual day of a trip. However, you can expect to camp in beautiful areas that put you right in the action to make the most of your backpacking adventure. We carefully design our itineraries with campsites in mind.