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Hiking In Yellowstone

From front-country boardwalks that wind through geyser basins to backcountry trails that can take more than a week to traverse, Yellowstone is a hiker's dream.

You can prepare for the front-country trails before your trip by purchasing from the Yellowstone Association the eight "leaflet" collection of brochures that describe the trails at Canyon, Fountain Paint Pots, Mud Volcano, Upper Geyser Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Geyser Basin, West Thumb and Historic Fort Yellowstone.

As for the backcountry trails, well, there are more than 1,100 miles of trail in the park and dozens of guidebooks and maps out there for you to peruse. 

Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone NP
Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone NP. Kurt Repanshek photo.

Hikes Featured in the Traveler

Bechler River Trail

* Thigh-deep in the strong, bracing currents of the Bechler River was not exactly what I expected when I set out to explore Yellowstone National Park's Cascade Corner. But at least it was mid-September, and not mid-July, when the torrent surely would have been colder, deeper, and stronger.

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Observation Point Trail

* Often over-looked, perhaps because of its short distance or the many other opportunities to be found in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park, the Observation Point Trail offers a quick, low-effort hike that rewards you with a grand view of the Old Faithful Geyser.

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Imperial And Spray Geysers Via Fairy Falls

* A towering, wispy waterfall, one of Yellowstone National Park's tallest, and two backcountry geysers via the same trail? That's what you get when you leave the Fairy Falls Trailhead. This hike can be done in as few as two hours and reward you not only with that nearly 200-foot-tall waterfall, Fairy Falls, but with relative solitude (relative when compared to the park's front-country geyser basins, that is) to enjoy Spray and Imperial geysers.

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Monument Geyser Basin

* Most visitors to Yellowstone National Park are familiar with the Upper, Lower, and Midway geyser basins, but how many these days have made the trek to a basin that once, thanks to its oddly shaped spires and acidic hot springs, was another must-see attraction for park visitors?

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Day Hikes in Yellowstone

The following areas are embedded with links to Yellowstone PDFs or website pages detailing hikes in the areas:

* Bridge Bay, Fishing Bridge, and Lake

* Canyon

* Madison

* Mammoth Hot Springs

* Norris

* Old Faithful

* Tower-Roosevelt

* West Thumb and Grant Village

Backcountry Travel

With 2.2 million acres within its borders, Yellowstone offers a lot of backcountry to explore. To help plan your trip, read the park's Backcountry Trip Planner. This offers all the details on how to obtain backcountry permits and how to reserve a backcountry campsite.

The Beyond Road's End brochure attached below provides some excellent information on preparing for a backcountry trek in the park.

In short, Yellowstone has a designated backcountry campsite system, and a Backcountry Use Permit is required for all overnight stays. Each designated campsite has a maximum limit for the number of people and stock allowed per night. The maximum stay per campsite varies from one to three nights per trip. Campfires are permitted only in established fire pits. Wood fires are not allowed in some backcountry campsites. A food storage pole is provided at most designated campsites so that food and attractants may be secured from bears.

Permits may be obtained only in person and no more than 48 hours in advance of your trip. Permits are available from most ranger stations and visitor centers. In order to obtain the best information on trail conditions, permits should be obtained from the ranger station or visitor center nearest to the area where your trip is to begin. The Backcountry Use Permit is valid only for the itinerary and dates specified. Backcountry travelers must have their permits in possession while in the backcountry.

Advance Reservations for Backcountry Campsites

Although permits must be obtained in person no more than 48 hours in advance, backcountry campsites may be reserved in advance. Requests for reservations must be submitted by mail or in person. They cannot be made over the phone or by fax. Reservations are booked on a first come, first served basis. A confirmation notice, not a permit, is given or mailed to the camper. This confirmation notice must then be converted to the actual permit not more than 48 hours in advance of the first camping date. Details are provided on the confirmation notice. The reservation fee is $ 20.00 regardless of the number of nights out or the number of people involved. The fee is not refundable.

Permits and Reservations Made Less Than 48 Hours in Advance

Because only a portion of the approximately 300 backcountry campsites are available for advance reservations, you may choose to wait until you arrive in the park to reserve your site(s) and obtain your permit. The $20.00 fee applies only to reservations made more than 48 hours in advance of the start of your trip.

Where to Get Your Permit

During the summer season (June - August), permits are available 7 days a week between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Bechler Ranger Station
  • Canyon Visitor Center
  • Grant Village Visitor Center 
  • Bridge Bay Ranger Station
  • Mammoth Visitor Center
  • Old Faithful Ranger Station
  • South Entrance Ranger Station
  • Tower Ranger Station
  • West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center
Yellowstone National Park

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