Gallatin Crest Traverse
- Yellowstone's most prominent mountains
- Yellowstone's highest lake: Shelf Lake
- Paradise Valley & breathtaking views
- Ascent of spectacular Bighorn Peak
- Deep wilderness of Yellowstone
- Potential to see wildlife
We were excited when we added it, and we can't help but stay excited about our Gallatin Crest Traverse backpacking adventure! Phenomenal views, diverse wildlife, high mountain lakes, and classic meadows are the signature attractions of this hiking tour. In far Northwestern Yellowstone a little known route straddles the crest of the picturesque Gallatin Mountains. This route features the best views in Yellowstone, crystalline lakes, lush meadows, beautiful valleys and abundant wildlife. Shelf Lake, your backdrop for two nights, is the park’s highest lake at 9,200 feet. A layover day high on the crest caps this one off and allows for an exciting one day hike to the top of Bighorn Peak.
If you're interested in getting up in the mountains and experiencing more of Yellowstone than what you can see from the roads, this "top of the world" hike is for you. Call us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) to reserve your spot today!
Trip Dates & Booking
You can also click here to request new dates or book through customer service.
We may be able to add new trip dates.
- Shuttle to Trailhead: 1.5-hour drive
- Hiking Mileage: 6.4 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet
This Yellowstone backpacking trip begins in the scenic Gallatin River Valley that roughly defines the park’s northwestern boundary. The trailhead lies at 7,000 feet; the lowest elevation of the hike. It is a 6.5 mile hike upstream along Specimen Creek, a lovely creek that feeds the Gallatin, to a beautiful camp in the meadows along the east fork of the creek.
- Hiking Mileage: 3.4 miles
- Elevation Gain: 800 feet
After a leisurely breakfast it is a short hike (~3.5 miles) to Yellowstone's High Lake; a pleasant lake nestled among rolling meadows near the crest. Moose are sometimes seen in the meadows along this part of the trail. After we make camp a day hike up the trail will yield our first glimpses of the grand views to be had from the Gallatin Crest.
- Hiking Mileage: 7 miles
- Elevation Gain: 400 feet
Day 3's hike is the longest of the trip. Shortly out of camp the group is rewarded with tremendous views of Paradise Valley. Further on we leave the main trail behind to make use of an obscure trail that sticks to the crest. This old trail is not marked on any map and is known only to a handful of locals. Dramatic views of the western valleys dominate this part of the hike. All the way we can see our destination on the other side of the broad valley - Shelf Lake, Yellowstone's highest lake.
- Hiking Mileage: 6 miles - optional round trip day hike
- Elevation Gain/Loss: approximately 2,000 feet
This is a layover day. You will have the option of lounging in camp or participating in an exciting day hike to the summit of Bighorn Peak. The climb follows the highest part of the crest - with very few trees and a narrow profile the crest affords incredible 360 degree views. Bighorn Sheep are frequently seen among these high crags and ridges of Yellowstone.
- Hiking Mileage: 8.2 miles
- Elevation Loss: 2,200 feet
- Shuttle to Bozeman: 1.5-hour drive
Our final day consists of a long hike down the North Fork of Specimen Creek. The trail descends sharply from Shelf Lake into thick stands of majestic spruce and fir trees. Specimen Creek grows quickly as we hike downstream and soon we are in the beautiful lower meadows that the we hiked through on the first day. A final 2 miles of hiking brings us to the van and this backpacking trip’s completion.
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 (Oboz hiking shoes and boots recommended)
- 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
- Emergency communication device(s)
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, 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.