Montana / Wyoming $1,900 • June 12-17, 2017
Springtime in the Rockies is a magical season, especially in this land of big valleys and rolling hills beneath the still snow covered Absaroka and Beartooth mountain ranges. The beautiful Black Canyon of the Yellowstone is here and this is a super trip for viewing wildlife; deer, elk, moose, pronghorn, and bison are usually seen and we may also glimpse coyote, bear (black and grizzly), bighorn, beaver, gray wolf, bald eagle, and other species. The mountain scenery is spectacular in this green paradise of extensive forest, big meadows of grass and sagebrush, and spectacular blooms of spring wildflowers. This moderate trip is based out of Gardiner, Montana.
We vary the route from year to year, depending primarily on the condition of the late-spring snow-pack in the higher terrain. Some of the areas we will likely visit, depending upon conditions, include the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone River (beautiful woods and meadows in a deep canyon), Hellroaring and Coyote Creeks, and the Buffalo Plateau.
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 recommend the Comfort Inn at 800-587-3833 or 406-587-2322.
MEETING TIME: Pre-trip orientation including food and gear handout plus safety talk at 6 pm at Absaroka Lodge, the evening prior to day one of the trip.
TRANSPORTATION: Air service to Bozeman; rent vehicle for drive to Gardiner. Major rental companies available. Or, Journey Rent-A-Car is economical and gives Big Wild Clients a 10% discount if you book by phone & mention that you are a Big Wild client: 406-551-2277. Amazing Taxi from airport to Gardiner at 406-223-5344 is another option, though more expensive.
TREK RATING: This trip is moderate. Mostly on trails. The longest backpacking day is about 8 miles, usually with two layovers. Total mileage not including day hikes: 24-30 depending upon route options.
ELEVATIONS: 5500-7500 feet with optional layover day hikes into higher terrain. Maximum on day elevation gain with backpack is 800-1500 feet depending upon which route we choose.
WEATHER: Variable, often by the hour. Warm sun and cool occasionally frosty nights. Afternoon showers are common. Typical springtime in the Rockies; anything possible from snow to 80-degree heat. This trip is in the driest and warmest part of Yellowstone, but it’s still Yellowstone and it’s still spring. Visit the National Weather Service for a forecast of the area.
FISHING: The streams and rivers have plenty of fish, but it’s high water runoff season which makes catching them tough. A license can be obtained in the park.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Wide open spaces with great views. Beautiful open woodlands. Snow-covered peaks surrounding us. Roaring streams and rivers and a Kaleidoscope of spring wildflowers. We usually see lots of wildlife, because the critters haven’t yet moved to the still snow-covered alpine summer ranges yet. “Hellroaring Creek” is really a spectacular mountain river. The wild Rockies are bursting forth in all of their springtime glory! And it’s real wilderness as soon as we leave the trailhead.
SPECIAL TIPS: A lightweight set of binoculars will come in handy for wildlife viewing. This is grizzly countryso leave behind deodorants and other sweet smelly substances!
STATUS: This land is not fully protected as designated Wilderness, though park protections pertain.
ITINERARY: There are usually two layovers, and we’ll do either a loop or “point A to point B”. Day one is mostly level and downhill as we approach the Yellowstone River. Our 2 major uphill days are mid-trip, with a final 600 foot uphill at the very end. Campsites are reserved in advance just for our group, and the trailhead is only a half hour drive from Gardiner.
Note: Mileages and vertical foot estimates are approximate because, based upon snowpack, runoff and other dynamic natural factors, we vary the specific itinerary from year to year.