Wyoming • This trip will run again in 2018
Just east of Canyon Village and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, central Yellowstone gradually rises up toward the Mirror Plateau, a landscape that some view as Yellowstone’s wildest! This country is heavily forested with lots of lodgepole pine that escaped the 1988 wildfires, so it’s mostly old growth, relatively open and easy to walk through. And walk through it we will, as substantial portions of this trip will be off-trail, away from virtually all other humans. This trip also has beautiful meadows, lakes, streams and big views across vast expanses. We’ll explore a remote seldom-visited thermal basin. Bison, grizzly and other typical Yellowstone wildlife species are abundant. Here is an opportunity to really get in touch with the wild side of Yellowstone – and yourself. We rate this trip fairly strenuous due to the off-trail sections, even though the uphills are modest. The trip base is Gardiner, Montana.
We usually do a “lollipop loop”, beginning and ending at the Wapiti Lake trail-head just east of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The terrain is rolling and wild, with some of the most beautiful woods and vistas in the Yellowstone region. Except for near the trailhead, this is one of the wildest, least-visited areas of the park.
TREK BASE: Gardiner, Montana. Absaroka Lodge, Route 89 at Yellowstone River Bridge, Gardiner MT, 800-755-7414 or 406-848-7414. If you need a night in Bozeman, we work with the Comfort Inn on North 7th at 800-587-2322 or 406-587-2322.
MEETING TIME: Pre-trip orientation including food and gear handout plus safety talk at 6 PM the evening prior to day one of the trip at the Absaroka Lodge, unless otherwise informed.
TRANSPORTATION: Air service to Bozeman; rent vehicle for drive to Gardiner. Major rental companies available. Or, Journey Rent-A-Car is economical and will give Big Wild Clients a 10% discount if you book by phone at 406-551-2277 and mention that you are a Big Wild Client. Amazing Taxi from airport to Gardiner at 406-223-5344 is another option, though more expensive.
TREK RATING: This trip is fairly strenuous, and substantial portions of the trek will be off-trail. About nine miles will be our longest day (mostly on trail), and there will usually be one layover day. Six or seven miles will be our maximum mileage for off-trail travel in one day. Most of the off-trail sections are through open forest with relatively little underbrush or across meadows and shallow streams, so the “bushwhacking” is relatively easy.
ELEVATIONS: 8,000 to 9,000 feet. Maximum one-day elevation gain with backpack is less than 1,000 feet.
WEATHER: Cool to cold nights with warm sunny days is the rule. Relatively brief afternoon thunderstorms are frequent, and at these elevations we must be prepared for any kind of weather and sudden changes, too.
FISHING: We don’t recommend fishing on this trek because fishy odors may attract bears.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Extensive old growth lodge-pole pine and spruce forest that escaped the 1988 infernos, as well as some smaller areas that did burn then. Big meadows. Hot springs and other thermal features. Tremendous solitude, because much of our route will be off-trail in truly wild wilderness! Summer wildflowers and big mammals are also in the area. Lakes and canyons.
SPECIAL TIPS: A lightweight set of binoculars will help you spot wildlife. A trekking pole or poles is very helpful when traveling off-trail. This is serious griz country; so don’t bring deodorant or anything else that smells good!
STATUS: The Yellowstone back-country is not yet designated as Wilderness, though park protections pertain.
ITINERARY: There will be one layover, and the usual trail-head is just east of Canyon Village and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Campsites are reserved in advance exclusively for our group, and the trail-head is about an hour and a half drive from Gardiner.
Note: Mileages and vertical foot estimates are approximate because we vary the exact route from year to year based upon local area conditions.