Backpacking Yellowstone National Park

One of the most visited National Parks in the country, Yellowstone boasts an impressive 4.1+ million visitors every year. However, the backcountry receives a statistically irrelevant number of visitors. Backpacking the Yellowstone backcountry provides an opportunity for solitude unparalleled anywhere in the world.

Yellowstone Backcountry Permits

With such few visitors into the backcountry, getting a permit in Yellowstone National Park is really easy. The lack of demand pairs nicely with the lack of Park Rangers. Conducting a no-permit challenge (like in Glacier National Park) would be easy to do.

Trail Conditions in Yellowstone National Park

The Wild West Trail traverses the least visited and emptiest corners of the park. As such, the trail conditions go from easy to follow to absolutely gone. Traveling greater than 2-miles from the nearest parking lot is further than 99.9% of park visitors ever go. It’s not just hikers that stick close to roads but the Park Rangers also forego any such trail maintenance after the 2-mile mark. It really is the wild west still.

Backpacking With Bison and Bears

One of the highlights of this route is traversing Lamar Valley. Sometimes referred to as the Serengeti of North America, herds of bison, thousands of heads strong call this place home. There are also wolves, grizzly bear, and every other mammal found in North America. Hanging a bear bag is highly recommended (if no bear box is available). But the most pressing challenge is the bison. They have no fear of humans and will stand on the trail grazing. Give them a wide berth when passing and stay calm – they want nothing to do with you and are more interested in the grass.

Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Section Map

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Exploring The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

As is the trend with the Wild West Trail, the routes taken are never through the easiest or most well-known landscapes. Many miles are spent within park boundaries but a greater number of miles are walked in the wilderness areas to the east and south of official park boundaries. These wildernesses cushion the park and help to create the largest intact temperate ecosystem in the world. Combine the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem with the Montana wilderness and the Idaho wilderness – and, well…that’s the Wild West Trail.

Exploring the least stepped upon mountain ranges in and around Yellowstone National Park opens hikers to the most amazing and pristine landscapes in the western hemisphere. The same biodiversity is found in these wilderness areas as are in the park, there is simply less human infrastructure to interfere with the hiking experience.

Wild West Trail Notes

There will be bushwhacking and the trail conditions will completely fall apart in many spots. Grizzly bears are common, their footprints were seen more often on trails than people’s shoeprints.