Yellowstone backpacking advice

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McKee80

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I've got my heart set on Yellowstone for my next trip out west and I've been going through trip reports and caltopo at an alarming rate. I like to pick an area and pick places that I want to explore that kind of represent that place (in my mind). In the past, we've gone to Margaret Lake and Hole in the Wall in Glacier and some high lake basins in the Sierra. I'm racking my brain with Yellowstone, though. Whoever designed this place did a terrible job. There is too much cool stuff and it is too far apart. My wish list includes backcountry thermal features, wildlife viewing, thermal swimming holes, waterfalls to play in, and wide open meadows. Views would be cool, too, but that isn't the focus. So, yeah, I don't ask for much. It would be 6 backcountry nights in mid September. Loop would be preferable. We could also split the trip doing some nights in one area, some nights in another. Off trail is OK, just not the whole trip. 8-12 miles a day, less if off trail. Can do up to 16 if necessary. Not looking to kill ourselves. Here is what I have so far (and my assumptions about it). I'd love if anyone has any preferences or recommendations for other trips or favorite places. Oh, and I did see the front country stuff several years ago.

1. Artist Point through Joseph's Coat to Wapiti Lake, then through Pelican Valley to Mist Creek Pass and back up through the Lamar Valley. Annoying shuttle issues on this one. Wouldn't get much use out of my hot pink speedo.

2. Soda Butte up Miller Creek to Hoodoo Basin. Day hike to eastern boundary. Make our way down to upper lamar patrol cabin and over to lamar valley. Coming down from Hoodoo Basin looks do-able from maps, but I'm not sure. Still no speedo action. Or a similar trip from @scatman report going up specimen ridge, over Lovely Pass and up Lamar.

3. Lone Star to Shoshone down Bechler Canyon, day trip to Dunanda Falls, over to Union Falls and out Grassy Lake. Speedo time! Less annoying shuttle. Or another @scatman trip making a loop out of Bechler and Pitchstone Plateau. But no wildlife (at least compared to Lamar Valley according to the interwebs).

Anyway, thanks for reading!
 

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McKee80

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I saw this Snake River / Heart Lake loop on a My Own Frontier video that sounds like it might fit the bill. Two nights at Heart Lake to get up Mt Sheridan. Leaves one night for a quick trip in another area.

snake-heart-loop.PNG
 

scatman

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I saw this Snake River / Heart Lake loop on a My Own Frontier video that sounds like it might fit the bill. Two nights at Heart Lake to get up Mt Sheridan. Leaves one night for a quick trip in another area.
That's a nice trip. You can soak in the Snake River where the Snake River Hot Springs empties in, and don't forget to check out Forbidding Falls on Forest Creek, particularly if you are staying at campsite 8C1 on one of your nights.

I'll be at Heart lake in mid-September for three nights. If your schedule corresponds, be sure and stop by and say "Hi."

What do the green circles with numbers in them represent on your map?
 

McKee80

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That's a nice trip. You can soak in the Snake River where the Snake River Hot Springs empties in, and don't forget to check out Forbidding Falls on Forest Creek, particularly if you are staying at campsite 8C1 on one of your nights.

I'll be at Heart lake in mid-September for three nights. If your schedule corresponds, be sure and stop by and say "Hi."

What do the green circles with numbers in them represent on your map?
That sound great. If we make it, I'll be in touch about stopping by for sure. It puts a green circle on there when there are too many campsites to put on the map without them writing on top of each other.

What weeklong-ish trip is your favorite in the park? I know you've done tons of them. Oh, and your honesty about the difficulty of some of the days on your trips is really helpful to me.
 

scatman

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I'm a wildlife kind of guy, so my favorite week long trip would have to be the Mirror Plateau / Lamar River Loop. Everyday we had multiple wildlife encounters, including nine Grizzly Bears. Anything that takes you into the Thorofare is special too, though I think one week might not be long enough to get in, stay, and get back out. You'd probably want nine to ten days, that way you'd have three or four days in the Thorofare proper to explore and soak it all in.
 

Yvonne

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I'm a wildlife kind of guy, so my favorite week long trip would have to be the Mirror Plateau / Lamar River Loop. Everyday we had multiple wildlife encounters, including nine Grizzly Bears. Anything that takes you into the Thorofare is special too, though I think one week might not be long enough to get in, stay, and get back out. You'd probably want nine to ten days, that way you'd have three or four days in the Thorofare proper to explore and soak it all in.
I would love to do that trip one day but not alone.
 

Yvonne

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I saw this Snake River / Heart Lake loop on a My Own Frontier video that sounds like it might fit the bill. Two nights at Heart Lake to get up Mt Sheridan. Leaves one night for a quick trip in another area.

View attachment 86338
I looked at something similar just yesterday and it would be one of the backpacks I really want to do. Mt. Sheridan is so tempting.
You can't go wrong with this one
 

Daxigait

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I hope you enjoy whatever you decided on but I thought I'd come in on your thread and paste feature people check in. there are so many options I broke it into just a couple of nights here in a couple of nights there since it is easy to hitchhike and go places in Yellowstone. there is a nice hike in the northern part set pictures of river for two and lots of wildlife, but no thermal features. I just split my trip up and do a couple of nights here and there and then I did the Norris Mammoth and old faithful in a day.
satellite starts at hellroaring and then follows the deer Creek trail it does feature River crossing unless you want to go a mile and a half up to where there is a bridge. towards the end of the deer Creek trail you could turn towards Mammoth and there is a campsite a couple of miles that direction that even allows campfires. it was a great viewing place for an afternoon thunderstorms since I wasn't able to get to the Thunderer. I also saw herd of elk up on the ridge in that section. It us a section that is popular early since it opens early in the season, but very quiet later I saw no one. As fir wildlife I saw a couple of herds of bison, a couple of lone male bison including one up close and personal to both our (suprize as I sat drying my feet after fording the river since I sat down to eat lunch) a herd of elk and a couple of deer. The hike is not difficult so it would be a good one as a starter. The only remotely strenuous part is coming up out from the river you gain 900 feet in a mile
I have heard great things about bechler, but as a solo hiker that year I did not want to Ford the rivers by myself.
Let us know how it goes.
 

LarryBoy

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I forded the Bechler the first week of July and was fine. Hip deep but not moving fast, at least right upstream of the Meadows.
I hope you enjoy whatever you decided on but I thought I'd come in on your thread and paste feature people check in. there are so many options I broke it into just a couple of nights here in a couple of nights there since it is easy to hitchhike and go places in Yellowstone. there is a nice hike in the northern part set pictures of river for two and lots of wildlife, but no thermal features. I just split my trip up and do a couple of nights here and there and then I did the Norris Mammoth and old faithful in a day.
satellite starts at hellroaring and then follows the deer Creek trail it does feature River crossing unless you want to go a mile and a half up to where there is a bridge. towards the end of the deer Creek trail you could turn towards Mammoth and there is a campsite a couple of miles that direction that even allows campfires. it was a great viewing place for an afternoon thunderstorms since I wasn't able to get to the Thunderer. I also saw herd of elk up on the ridge in that section. It us a section that is popular early since it opens early in the season, but very quiet later I saw no one. As fir wildlife I saw a couple of herds of bison, a couple of lone male bison including one up close and personal to both our (suprize as I sat drying my feet after fording the river since I sat down to eat lunch) a herd of elk and a couple of deer. The hike is not difficult so it would be a good one as a starter. The only remotely strenuous part is coming up out from the river you gain 900 feet in a mile
I have heard great things about bechler, but as a solo hiker that year I did not want to Ford the rivers by myself.
Let us know how it goes.
 

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Kmatjhwy

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McKee I have hiked all over this Heart Lake and Snake River Area and exactly at this same time of year and it was terrific. I say 'Go For It'. I have camped numerous times at the Nine Mile Meadows and love it there. Nice places all over in here. At Nine Mile Meadows one can also dayhik e up Coulter and Wolverine Creeks which would be wild and great! Also one can dayhike up Outlet Lake from Heart Lake and on up the Snake River. Think this would be a nice choice, it has so much variety, and do think you would love it.

Also do have to echo Scatman, if you could make it to the Thorofare ... You would love it!!! I have been there many a time. It can be magical in September. Hunting outside the Park but Great in the Park. You would never forget it. Also September on the backside of Yellowstone Lake is really magical also. There is so many areas in here that it is like it always has been .... Wild and Nice!!!! There are also Loons on both Heart Lake and the backsides of Yellowstone Lake. The Grizzlies and the Wolves are there which makes it even better!!!! After numerous experiences with both, I trust them more then people for they do not stab me in the back. Also the Thorofare can really be magical in October to with the beginnings of winter setting in and no one else around.

Wishing You The Best!
 
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OwenM

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Yellowstone has always struck me as a bustling tourist trap, but just reading that^^^ left me a bit starry eyed!
 

McKee80

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Someone had to go and kick up this thread. Another 10 hours of my life gone. Trying to drum up some justification for a longer trip (I'm turning 50, ... that's all I have so far). Anyway, I'm thinking about this route. Is it better to take the south boundary trail rather than follow the Snake River on the southern part?
yellowstone_thoroughfare.PNG


yellowstone_thoroughfare_text.PNG
 
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scatman

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Good goal for 50. If the potential to see Grizzly Bear and Elk are on your list, then Big Game Ridge is worth traversing. Lots of bear sign back in there when I was there years ago. The only time I hiked the trail along the Snake, it was a warm day and the trail is fairly exposed, that being said, I did enjoy backpacking along the river.
 

Outdoor_Fool

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I've hiked a few miles along the river and have hiked over Big Game Ridge on the S Boundary trail. I agree with @scatman that the river trail is a good hike. The habitats are diverse enough to keep it interesting. Hiking over Big Game Ridge was awesome. Expansive views, traveling through stands of whitebark with fresh grizzly sign, etc. I'd go with the high country almost every time, weather permitting. Looks like a great trip you have planned.
 
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I did a very similar trip last September in 5 nights, except we went counter-clockwise, traversed Big Game Ridge, and made it a loop by hiking down the west side of Heart Lake and back down to the South Boundary TH. It was an excellent trip and highly recommended.

A few notes:
  1. Big Game Ridge is definitely beautiful. Like @scatman, we saw lots of bear sign on that route. We met a couple rangers on horseback w/ a few mules who warned us about grizzlies traveling south for hunters' gut piles. (This was one of only two human contacts we had on the route.) It was also the most difficult part of the route; not bad at all, but the rest of the route is very mellow in comparison. The difficulty was compounded by about a foot of snow on the ground from a storm a couple days before our trip. (This was the only snow on our route, though the rivers were up a little as well.)
  2. If I were to do it again, I would absolutely consider the route you've chosen along the Snake River. I found all of our walking along the rivers to be really beautiful and wouldn't have minded extending that. Also, my Texan hiking partner wasn't the biggest fan of the aforementioned snow on Big Game Ridge. I still think I'd give Big Game Ridge the edge, but both options have serious upside.
  3. You've got some great campsites on there: 8C2 Nine Mile Meadow is beautiful and very open; we heard wolves more clearly here than I have in all my previous time in Yellowstone. 6M3 Mariposa Lake is a gem; we didn't stay here, but speculated that we wished we had as we walked by. 6Y6 along the Yellowstone River is a solid choice; we stayed at 6Y5 and looked at this one a bit enviously when we passed by in the AM.
  4. As far as wildlife goes, we saw evidence of all the big guys. No live bison, but a decent amount of old droppings along the Yellowstone River. Elk were everywhere and at that time the bugling was almost impossible to escape - not that we wanted to. We had a moose encounter near Mariposa Lake that put us a bit on edge when a cow moose stashed her calf and clearly came back looking for us - we moved on quickly. We also surprised a grizzly near site 6A4 on Yellowstone Lake and were simultaneously in awe of its speed and happy to see it using that speed to go the other direction.
  5. I think mid September is an amazing time to do this route. We only had two human contacts from TH-to-TH: the ranger group on Big Game Ridge and a solo backpacker near the Thorofare Cabin. It seems that the guided trips that make up a lot of traffic on the east side of this route were wrapped up by that time. I was actually surprised we didn't see anyone at all near Heart Lake though.
Our route:
 
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