Yellowstone: Bechler Canyon, Aug 12-15 2022

travel2walk

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This last minute trip came together as my young brothers-in-law (Sean & Shane) wanted to go backpacking for the first time and they wanted to do it in Yellowstone. After zooming with them about how to prepare, it was clear they weren't and I would be heading out to west to lead them. Also with us was their friend (Ozan) and my friend (Chris). I met Chris on the JMT a few years ago and hiked again with him last year in Glacier. I was able to recruit him to help me out on leading the kids on their first backpacking trip. Offering a free flight via my SW companion pass and free hotel helped in my recruiting efforts. I was very happy having someone I knew the capabilities of and trusted in the backcountry. This also allowed us split the group at times to accommodate the different goals and paces of the kids as they got use to backpacking.

Overall it was a good trip as I saw everything I wanted to see. As with the new backpackers, you really don't know how they'll react. I knew the distance was a big longer on the days, but the elevation profile was pretty mild. There were plenty of optional side trips that can save miles. Even with one of the kids injuried himself half way, he made it through. At the end, I think the kids that were the most interested in backpacking are more interested now and have a bit more experience. I feel like I did my job by getting everyone out and shown them the good with the bad of backpacking.

This is a pretty well know trail and plenty of trip reports on here for it, so I'll keep that to a summary about the trail and more about the story. I'll post a more extensive version of this someday over on my webpage.

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day 1: Grassy Lake Trailhead to 9U2 - 12.6 mi 997 ft gain

We didn't get started until 3pm in the afternoon after dropping a car at Lonestar Trailhead. The kids decided to drive 25 hours straight from Kentucky the day before so I thought it was better for them to rest up and pack in the morning. I parked just off the dam since I'm pretty sure my rental Hyundai Accent wouldn't have made it back up. The Mountain Ash Creek Trail was pretty uneventful and in the forest for the most part save our first water crossing of Falls River. Our objective for the first day was to visit Union Falls. The late afternoon sun hit it just right to give us a nice rainbow from the mist.

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After a cold shower from Union falls we headed over to the hot spring for a quick soak.

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We were running out of sunlight so we didn't stay long. I had missed out on 9U5 campsite at the falls to another group by minutes due to the internet being out the morning I pulled my permit at West Yellowstone so we'd have to continue on. We would be getting into camp in the dark. We had the option of 9U2 or 9U1 at the permit office and was originally permitted for 9U1. With the random reception I had at Union Falls, I knew 9U2 was still available so that was home for the night. I think we were all happy not to do anymore night hiking than we did and stopping after crossing Mountain Ash Creek. Only thing of interest before we got to camp was I caught a glimpse of a mother moose with the young through the trees in Mountain Ash Creek.

day 2: 9U2 to 9B7 with a side trip to Dunanda Falls - 22.9 mi 1499 ft gain

As with new backpackers, the mornings take a little longer. We started on the trail around 9am. The morning of day 2 was pretty uneventful as we took the Bechler Meadows Cutoff Trail toward Bechler Canyon. The only trail beta of interest was the trail was rerouted to avoid a beaver dam, but those beavers weren't having any of that and created a dam on the reroute trail too. We were able to keep our feet mostly dry for that by walking pretty much across the beaver dam or on the sticks just beneath it.

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When we got to campsite 9B2, Shane and myself decided to hang our packs and do the 8 mile side trip to Dunanda Falls. The side trip and time spent at the falls meant we'd most likely finish the day in the dark once again. Chris would continue on with Sean and Ozan to our campsite at 9B7 as they wanted to somewhat enjoy the experience. They would spend some time swimming in the river and taking lunch before they started. Meanwhile, our hike out to Dunanda was pretty uneventful. It was nice to see the Tetons in the distance as we crossed the meadows. Plenty of feels like Gadiator going through the wheat field moments here.

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Beta on getting to the falls given to us by fellow backpackers was to go to the river through 9A3 campsite rather than the trail. We'd agree with that, but found the trail easier when exiting the falls. I would say the falls and the hotspring there was definitely worth it, but probably easier to do as a in an out from the Bechler Ranger Station rather than push the big day we signed up for. After all, we could have sat here for a few more hours.

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We hung out at the falls for a couple of hours and ate luner there before heading back. A storm was rolling in as we left the falls and it started to pour on us as we pick up our bags to head up Bechler Canyon. The first part of Bechler was spent going through the brush. It was good we were soaked already from the rain so the brush didn't bother us much. I saw a few thimble berries but was surprised to see all the blueberries/huckleberries no where near their prime. I guess that also explains why I haven't seen any signs of bear on the entire trip thus far. While I always enjoy the rushing waters of cascading river and the steep canyon walls, the views of Colonnade Falls

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and Iris Falls were surprisingly impressive.

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We were in the dark by the time we passed Treasure Island and the steep cascading section of the Bechler River, but at least the rain stopped also.

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We made the crossing of the Bechler River in the dark and was glad the levels didn't raise too much with the rain. So a second night in a row, we rolling into camp at night.

day 3: 9B7 to 8G1 with a visit to Mr. Bubbles - 13.8 mi 2054 ft gain

We had an even later start on day 3 leaving camp around 11. Based on the distance, I didn't think that would be an issue except one of the kids had a knee issue that started to bother him, so we were moving slow from here. I am not a fast hiker as those I've hiked with on here knows, but this was a mile an hour slow with breaks. Trail wise, we crossed the Bechler River again and passed an open area of the canyon with some thermal features. When we reached the 3 river junction, the bridge across Ferris Creek was out. Around 2pm, we arrived at the cool thermal feature

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and not so secret anymore Mr Bubbles along Ferris Creek. We sure benefited from the word getting out.

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We had the place to ourselves for a half hour before a group of women from Seattle joined us followed by a couple other groups. The Seattle group had the coveted campsite 9D1, but were looking to keep heading toward old faithful and see if they could share a campsite with another group. They only had 1 day left in their trip and wanted to avoid the 16 mile last day. They were were polling everyone there regarding how open people would be in sharing their campsites if someone on the trail asked. So I pass the question onto you folks here on the backcountry forum, would you share your Yellowstone campsite? My answer was probably, but definitely since they were the ones asking.

Anyways, I was very tempted to hang out at Mr Bubbles for the rest of the afternoon and camp at 9D1 they weren't going to use.

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I probably would have if it was by myself, but we needed to keep going based our pace. The 9 miles wasn't a lot left typically but again our injury riddled pace would mean a possible 3rd night finishing in the dark. Again we decided to split the group up with Chris going ahead with Shane this time and taking on most of the weight of our injured member. They would go on ahead and set up camp while I'd do my part to see the slower group through. My goal was to just keep the group moving no matter the pace. I pretty much used all the tricks I knew from encouragement, to conversation, to giving him my hiking poles, to feeding him all the candy I had on me, to feeding him all the drugs I had on me, to stopping for dinner and then continuing to hike, and turning in DJ travel2walk on 91.7 the Rock'n Forest playing all the party hits of the 80s and 90s (it was good that basically no one else was on trail through this section at this point in the evening). We made it in the end about a half hour after dark rolling in to camp with our moving karaoke dance party, we even had strobe light effects.

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Overall the rest of the trail was pretty uneventful and not that much to see other than the top of Bechler Canyon and the open meadow around Douglas Knob. There was also only a slight section of marsh in those meadows, so we stayed mostly dry the rest of the day.

day 4: 8G1 to Lonestar Trailhead with a visit to Shoshone Lake & Geyser Basin - 12.7 mi 561 ft gain

I woke up early in the morning and headed for a side trip to Shoshone Lake and Geyser Basin with Chris and Shane. I enjoyed the geothermal features

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and the beach at Shoshone Lake and was glad we did it since the rest of the hike out was pretty boring through the forest.

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The only trail beta to note was that the park services were in the process of adding a walkway through the marshy area around OA3, so the temporary planks weren't that great and a foot might end up in the marsh.

We arrived at Lonestar roughly 1 hour since eruption meaning we'd have to wait around 2 hours for the next one. We didn't wait around.

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We had the kids finish at Old Faithful since I thought that would be a good place to end their first Yellowstone experience. They could wait for old faithful to erupt and get real food while we went back to get the other car. They would have plenty of time as the shuttling would take another 4 hours roundtrip.
 

wsp_scott

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Nice, some long days in some beautiful country, what did the "kids" think of backpacking and Yellowstone?

thanks for sharing
 

travel2walk

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Nice, some long days in some beautiful country, what did the "kids" think of backpacking and Yellowstone?

thanks for sharing
I think all of them enjoyed parts of the trip, some more than others.

For the negatives, it was a big learning experience for a couple of them in regards to shoes, food, and snacks. You can tell them beforehand to get trailrunners or even their favorite walking tennis shoes and bring food they'll actually want to eat, but nothing like first hand experience for them to actually learn. (I now have plenty of Chana Masala I carried out for them). I think the kid that injured himself was because he was changing his gate and footing to avoid the blister from his boots. I'm not sure if he'd backpack again anytime soon, but the other 2 were talking about going backpacking again at Red River Gorge near them afterwards. I ended up giving Shane my old BA tent I was using on the trip so he could start backpacking by himself (early Christmas present to go with the early birthday gift of his REI garage sale Osprey Exos I found for $60 - I'd bought that for myself at that price). He's the kid that really wanted to get out there and he wanted to see everything on this trip.

For the positives, there were plenty of highlights on the hike and they are a bit spoiled in regards to hot springs and waterfalls. We didn't see much animals this time around and I told them it's a reason to come back probably early fall/late summer. Pretty sure they'll do that eventually. Ideally I'd stretch the trip out one more day so we could have just chilled one of the campsites looking out to the meadows for animals, but they were on a time constraint so this was the best I could come up with last minute and with the available campsites.
 

TheMountainRabbit

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Looks like a good one! I'll be covering some of the same ground on a trip at the end of September, so this is quite the tease. :)
 

Jackson

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Love to see photos of that area when it's still green. I've only been in late September and early October. That's a fun route to get people introduced to backpacking. Not too challenging, cool stuff to see, hot springs you can sit in.

My friends and I have made our fall Bechler trip an annual thing, so we'll be headed back there in early October this year. Your report has me anxious to get out there already!

So I pass the question onto you folks here on the backcountry forum, would you share your Yellowstone campsite? My answer was probably, but definitely since they were the ones asking.
Depends on who's asking/how many people there are in my group and theirs. I probably would for most people asking.
 

Bob

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Lol.... Late start morning at 9. ? .... Happy to get out by 9, usually 10.... Morning is to relax.
 

Wanderlust073

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Nice write up - love the pics
 

travel2walk

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Looks like a good one! I'll be covering some of the same ground on a trip at the end of September, so this is quite the tease. :)
Definitely a lot of highlight points, but also plenty of trail through the forest. Those got a bit monotonous. I did wish I had another day so I could have spent more time at Dunanda and Mr Bubbles. What's your trip plan? You doing any offtrail in the area?
 

travel2walk

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Love to see photos of that area when it's still green. I've only been in late September and early October. That's a fun route to get people introduced to backpacking. Not too challenging, cool stuff to see, hot springs you can sit in.

My friends and I have made our fall Bechler trip an annual thing, so we'll be headed back there in early October this year. Your report has me anxious to get out there already!


Depends on who's asking/how many people there are in my group and theirs. I probably would for most people asking.
Yea, I understand why y'all do it as an annual trip. Seems like fall would be great time with the cooler weather for the hotsprings too. I'd imagine you see more wildlife out there then too?

Any yea regarding their question, unless people are obnoxiously loud, there seem like plenty of space at the camp sites to accommodate others. Plus I like talking to others when I'm out there, always fun to learn about others experiences.
 
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travel2walk

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Thats why "Rabbit" is in your title. I could never keep up........
@TheMountainRabbit is very goal oriented and he doesn't pick easy on these trips. My saying after hiking with him is I met a stranger on the internet and he tried to kill me... twice now. But I'd still go on a trip with him if he asks and he can tolerate my pace (which he is great about). lol.

Also @TheMountainRabbit, my lungs felt a lot better on this trip than ours now that I'm month further along recovering from COVID. I know this was much easier on elevation, but I didn't feel that suffocation feeling at all. So hopefully that last trip was a low in my physical condition.
 

travel2walk

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Lol.... Late start morning at 9. ? .... Happy to get out by 9, usually 10.... Morning is to relax.
Also its about intended time to get out. The intent that day was to leave by 8, but things took longer than intended with the new backpackers. For our next day we relaxed in the morning intending to get out at 10, but didn't leave camp until 11. lol
 

Jackson

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Yea, I understand why y'all do it as an annual trip. Seems like fall would be great time with the cooler weather for the hotsprings too. I'd imagine you see more wildlife out there then too?
Possibly? We saw 3 moose last time, which was pretty wild since they're not all that common in Yellowstone. Also saw a lone mountain goat walking on the trail, which was pretty crazy since they're not usually found in that kind of environment. Must have been fleeing extermination in the Tetons or something.

I've never seen much sign of bear though. Scratches on trees and maybe one old scat, but that's it. I've heard that the bears are pretty dense in there, so maybe I'm just not looking in the right places. There were bear warnings for various camp sites in the area last year, so I guess we may just be too loud or something. Haha.
 

TheMountainRabbit

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Definitely a lot of highlight points, but also plenty of trail through the forest. Those got a bit monotonous. I did wish I had another day so I could have spent more time at Dunanda and Mr Bubbles. What's your trip plan? You doing any offtrail in the area?
Gonna turn it into a loop over Pitchstone Plateau - ~40% off-trail. I've never actually done the Bechler Canyon section, so looking forward to that. Told my brother I'd make this year's trip on the easier side and I don't think I'm gonna be proved a liar this time. (Honestly hoping for a little snow to spice things up... but maybe I'm being picky, because I don't want too much. :lol:)
 

travel2walk

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I've never seen much sign of bear though. Scratches on trees and maybe one old scat, but that's it. I've heard that the bears are pretty dense in there, so maybe I'm just not looking in the right places. There were bear warnings for various camp sites in the area last year, so I guess we may just be too loud or something. Haha.
So I guess it wasn't just me that didn't seem any signs of bears other than a posted sign.
 

travel2walk

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Gonna turn it into a loop over Pitchstone Plateau - ~40% off-trail. I've never actually done the Bechler Canyon section, so looking forward to that. Told my brother I'd make this year's trip on the easier side and I don't think I'm gonna be proved a liar this time. (Honestly hoping for a little snow to spice things up... but maybe I'm being picky, because I don't want too much. :lol:)
I guess that depends on the downfalls over pitchstone. I think you just guaranteed you'll be hiking through wishing for snow shoes lol.
 
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