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Yellowstone (Part 2) / Three Proposed Itineraries / Your thoughts, please?
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Herb Tassin
(mfxdmx) - MLife

Locale: Southeast
Yellowstone (Part 2) / Three Proposed Itineraries / Your thoughts, please? on 05/08/2012 22:24:11 MDT Print View

Hey Guys,

So, after some great suggestions in the first thread I posted asking for trail advice, we've done a bit more research, spent more time with the trusty NatGeo Map and Google Earth , and have it currently narrowed down to three proposed itineraries. Would those of you with Yellowstone experience please check them out, and give us your thoughts?

Two very fit, experienced backpackers, expecting to cover around 15 miles per day. Plane arrives in Jackson, WY, around noon on Saturday, Aug 11th. Pick up rental car at 1:00, stop for fuel canisters and bear-spray, and hopefully hit the South Entrance Ranger Station of Yellowstone by 3:30. Allowing 45 minutes for orientation video/picking up permits (we'll have reservations), then head to one of three destinations, depending on which trip we select. Have to hike out Wednsday, August 15th, and drive back to Jackson that evening for some scheduled climbing, so we only have four days and three nights, not counting the arrival day.

1) Thorofare Route: Start at Fishing Bridge/Pelican Creek Trail to Turbid Lake Trail to Thorofare Trail. Pick up Mountain Creek Trail over Eagle Pass and out of the Park, taking the Eagle Creek Mountain Trail to end at HWY 14/16/20. Still have to work out the shuttle logistics -- with that distance, probably need to hire a shuttle driver, and the one we spoke to so far quoted $250. Haven't seen a lot of information about the Eagle Creek Mountain Trail -- anybody done this one? Spoke to someone at the Shoshone National Forest who was pretty helpful. Logistically, this would appear to be the toughest to negotiate transportation from one end to the other -- any thoughts on this?

2)Lamar Valley Route: From the South Entrance Ranger Station, drive to Fishing Bridge,and leave the rental car near the Pelican Creek Trailhead. Hopefully catch the Park Bus to Canyon Village, from there hopefully hitchhike (and maybe make a sign offering "will pay $ for a ride") up to Tower-Roosevelt. Find a place to camp (frontcountry campsites?) that evening. Sunday morning, take the Yellowstone River Trail to the Specimen Ridge Trail. Pick up the Lamar River Trail, and follow to the Mist Creek Trail, to the Pelican Creek Trail, and back to the car.

3)Bechler Route: From the South Entrance Ranger Station, head to Lewis Lake. Camp in the frontcountry campsite, and leave the car there. Sunday morning, hitchhike (or walk) the several miles up the road to the Dogshead Trail. Take it to Shoshone Lake Trail to Bechler River Trail. Follow it to the Mountain Ash Creek Trail, and then take the Pitchstone Plateau Trail back to South Entrance Road. Hitchhike (hopefully) back up to Lewis Lake to pick up the car.

I know these routes will be old hat to you Yellowstone veterans, but this is our first trip, and we'd like to see as much of what the park has to offer while we're there, including wildlife, and amazing scenery. Do you see any glaring problems with any of the routes? Which one would be your favorite? Thanks as always -- you guys rock!


David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: Yellowstone on 05/09/2012 13:17:24 MDT Print View

Herb, I think you'd be very happy with any of those routes. You did good homework. That said, there are differences which will make one preferable to the others depending on what you most want to see. You might modify route one to go around the Lake and come out the Snake River at the south entrance. Some sweet hot springs along that stretch, and likely easier hitching. If you do route three, go around the south side of Shoshone Lake and devote an hour or more to investigate the geyser basin.

Wildlife: most likely on route two, least likely on route three.
Thermal features: route three is by far the best in this respect.
Fishing: good on all, I'd rank three the best, followed by two and one.
Big views: two wins here because Specimen is awesome. One comes in a close second (the Yellowstone river south of the lake is amazing).

If I had to do only one, had never been to Yellowstone before, and wanted the best overall feel of the park I'd probably pick option two.

So long as you allow a chunk of time for hitching I wouldn't worry too much about catching a ride. It usually seems I spend 20 minutes being studiously not looked at by families and couples with plenty of space before a local in a truck or European in an RV stops. $250 for that shuttle is outrageous.

Getting into a front country campground late in the day and getting a site in early August is not a good gamble. The Tower campground, for instance, usually fills by 930am that time of year. If at all possible, reserve a BC site close to the road for that first night, drive right to it, and worry about hitching at the end. Driving anywhere in the park between 10 and 4 during August is to be avoided at all costs due to traffic.

Edited by DaveC on 05/09/2012 13:24:02 MDT.

Steofan The Apostate
(simaulius) - F

Locale: Bohemian Alps
Which route? Hmmmm on 05/09/2012 13:44:41 MDT Print View

Looks like your pre-planning went well.
Lamar Valley & Specimen Ridge are great for superb vistas and wildlife of all sizes. This would be my first pick.
Pitchstone Plateau is both beautiful and deserted yet accessible for pick #2.
I've been told that normally the front-country campgrounds keep one or two tent sites open for walk-ins but call now to reserve these if at all possible because it seemed like the photographers were squatting in any available space for the entire season. The location hotels\motels\cabins are usually booked up but the front desk will release cancellations at 7pm daily, first come basis, if you feel the need for a room with a flush toilet & shower. Park the rental as close to a location front desk office as they will allow and pay the extra for the insurance policy. I've seen vehicles without doors being towed out of the park... pesky bears.

Sent you a pm with my email address, contact me anytime.

Steven M.

Richard Lyon
(richardglyon) - MLife

Locale: Bridger Mountains
Yellowstone routes on 05/09/2012 16:46:39 MDT Print View


Any would be a great backpack! As I've not spent much time in the Thorofare that's probably where I'd go; then again I've always said that Lamar was the very essence of Yellowstone backcountry. In fact that's where I'll be that week, with some friends up Slough Creek. And the Bechler Trail is one of my all-time favorites, not least because of the fishing. I agree with his comment on the geyser basin. Never done the Pitchstone, an omission I intend to remedy now that I live in Montana.

For a first trip to YNP I'd recommend the Thorofare for variety and scenery and light hiking traffic.

As I mentioned in my PM, and the other guys confirm, front country campgrounds are booked solid with RVs. If you want to use one reserve now if you can. Other accommodations book up fast too, especially for August.

The $250 shuttle price is in line with what I was quoted last fall, from Bechler RS to Old Faithful (a very long drive). Might be cheaper to rent a second car. The Specimen/Lamar route is the easiest logistically.

I'll send my email and phone number by pm also. Feel free to contact me anytime.


Herb Tassin
(mfxdmx) - MLife

Locale: Southeast
Great suggestions, improved itinerary, permits issued. on 05/19/2012 10:15:58 MDT Print View

David, Steven, and Richard -

Thanks so much for your invaluable input, and the generous offers of personal contact info. You guys are what makes BPL one of the best online communities anywhere.

So, after reading your posts, we chose the Specimen Ridge route, but for car logistics, we're going to do it in reverse. When we started looking at campsites, it became apparent that we could comfortably extend the mileage, so we made what we think will be a great addition to the trip:

1)We'll arrive at Yellowstone mid-afternoon on Saturday, Aug 11th, South Entrance, get permits, etc., and drive toward Canyon Village. We'll park the car at Artist Point, check out the Falls, and hike the couple of miles and camp at backcountry campsite 4R1/Ribbon Lake.

2)On Sunday, we take Wapiti Lake Trail to campsite 5B2/Broad Creek.

3)On Monday, we take the Upper Pelican Creek Trail over to the Mist Creek Trail. Excited about Upper Pelican, because we'll pass some thermal features, and our original trip didn't include that. Continue to Campsite 3U3/Little Saddle Creek near the intersection of Mist Creek and Lamar.

4)On Tuesday, hike the Lamar River Trail, camping at 3L1/Cache Creek.

5)On Wednesday, take Specimen Ridge back to Tower-Roosevelt, and hitchhike back to Canyon Village / Artist Point to pick up the car.

The folks at the Yellowstone Backcountry Office were really helpful, and the permit process couldn't have been easier. Even though permit reservations aren't taken over the phone, we were able to check campsite availability for the nights we wanted by telephone before faxing in our permit request, which made the process much more streamlined. I faxed in the request around noon on a Friday, and got the confirmation back THREE HOURS LATER via email. Awesome!

Also, for anyone who might stumble across this thread who hasn't used it, Google Earth was an amazing tool in trip planning. Since it will display TRAILS, it's easy to draw and save a path, and send the file to trip-mates to review. In addition to mileage estimates, it will also display an elevation profile, 3-D imagery, etc. That being said, we still relied on the NatGeo Trails Illustrated Yellowstone Map for definitive versions of the trails, and you still need the Yellowstone Backcountry Planner .PDF file to get campsite locations and code designations. Google Earth currently shows campsites in their correct locations (more or less), and while it does give them a three letter/number designation, those codes were almost always incorrect. But combined, those three map tools made the planning really easy and enjoyable.

We'll head back to Jackson, climb the Grand Teton with Exum Guides, and then we're planning a quick three day backpack in Grand Teton National Park. Yahoo!!!