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Yellowstone Backpacking Guides
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Yellowstone National Park Tour
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Yellowstone Hiking Vacation

Heart Lake - Snake River

Highlights

  •   Guides Choice backpacking trip
  •   Camp on the shores of a pristine lake
  •   Witch Creek, an amazing thermal stream
  •   Stunning views from Mount Sheridan
  •   Yellowstone meadows and river valleys
  •   Amazing Snake River hot springs
  •   Point to point wilderness hike
  •   Potential to see wildlife

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!

Due to Yellowstone's permit system, which issues backcountry hiking and camping permits on March 1st each year, it's beneficial to register before February 28th of the year you'd like to hike with us. Give us a call at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) to learn more!

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Backpacking Trip
Difficulty:
Solitude:
Bozeman, MT
4 or 5 days
25mi / 40km
4 Days: $1155
5 Days: $1350

Taxes & Fees

Travel to Bozeman

  Private Trips

  See Trip Dates


Trip Dates & Booking

Click on a date to register.
You can also click here to request new dates or book through customer service.
  • Available to Book
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Don't see your dates?
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800-715-HIKE (4453)

Trip Itinerary

Day 1
  • Shuttle to Trailhead: 3.5-hour drive
  • Hiking Mileage: 8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 300 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 600 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: 2,800 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: 11.1 miles
  • Elevation Loss: 400 feet

Following a hearty 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: 5.6 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 Variation

This route can be 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 area.




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

  • 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!

What's Not Included

  • 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)
See the Packing Lists page for more information.


Meals: What To Expect

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.


Gear We Provide

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


What Gear To Bring

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.


What Clothes to Bring

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.

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. 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.


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 backpacking trips is 6 guests and 1 guide, with a maximum of 6 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


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°

Camping on Backpacking Trips

backpacking tent

Backcountry Sleeping

Tent Camping

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.

backpacking meals

Backcountry Cuisine

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.

backpacking campsites

Amazing Campsites

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.

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