About Big Wild

The Big Wild MissionStaffFoundersWe are a “Green” Business

Wilderness SafetyConservation of the Big WildsTestimonialsWhy Big Wild?

We are a family business and all trips have the personal touch of Big Wild Adventures owners Jesse Ford and David Ellis. This means that we can be responsive to the needs of individuals, and we can easily adapt to circumstances such as airline travel glitches and sudden changes in route conditions. Also, we are happy to accommodate student groups and folks with disabilities.

Salt Creek Women

Experience: Since our inception in 1978 we have run well over one thousand multi-day wilderness treks, each one carefully planned and outfitted by Jesse or David, and though we are not the biggest, we are widely regarded as the leading backpacking company in the western United States!

As seen in…

Our Guided Backpacking Expertise in West

As featured in Backpacker, Sierra, National Geographic Adventure, Outside, The New York Times, Outside Bozeman and more.

Wilderness Backpacking is the most rewarding way to experience a bit of the original America. It’s simply walking through the wilds while carrying food, tent, sleeping bag and clothing in a modern, comfortable backpack. And because you do it on your own two feet, you’ll feel a dramatic sense of accomplishment. It’s also the camaraderie of small groups sharing wonders of nature that few others ever experience. Backpacking is suited to anybody who is healthy, reasonably fit, and open to new ways of experiencing the natural world.

Wilderness Canoeing is another rewarding way to experience wild America, silently paddling your craft with all essential items through magnificent wilderness, sharing the wonders of nature in a similar small group setting.

Flower SniffingOn all of our Backpacking and Canoeing trips, you will experience wilderness camping at its best: the magic of a warm campfire on a cool night, of great camaraderie and campfire stories, of sleeping in a warm sleeping bag in a state of the art tent or under the stars, completely immersed in primeval nature. Whether you hike or canoe, wilderness camping in the big wilds will be a big part of your experience, something you’ll never forget!

We do not “mass produce” trips, with numerous departure dates for each expedition. Instead, each trip is a unique entity, personally planned by Big Wild owners Dave and Jesse, and scheduled for optimal time slots. For example, early season water levels and snowpack make travel in some mountain areas difficult before mid-July.  Some areas, such as the Wind Rivers, Beartooths and the southern half of Yellowstone are best enjoyed later in summer due to early season snow, wetness and mosquitoes. Southwest Yellowstone is very wet and buggy until late summer, and our September trip provides spectacular autumn colors, but other Yellowstone backpacking treks in drier terrain are great in early summer. We time some trips for optimal wildlife or wildflower viewing. Our spring and fall Southwest trips, which include Utah backpacking, avoid the summer heat. These are just a few examples of the careful planning that goes into each adventure. Don’t settle for less!

Big Wild Adventures is a licensed guide and outfitter with the U.S Forest Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. We are an Equal Opportunity Service Provider.

On all Big Wild treks, we utilize and continue to develop effective practices for low-impact (“leave no trace”) wilderness travel and camping.


Wildlife:Viewing wildlife – large and small – is an integral part of the wilderness experience. Our guides know where to look and how to spot critters. Although we cannot guarantee any particular level of sightings on a given trip, wildlife is important to us, and chances are great that a Big Wild Adventure will provide an opportunity to watch native animals in their unspoiled natural habitats. Many of our Yellowstone backpacking treks are great for viewing wildlife, as are many of our other Wyoming backpacking and Montana backpacking adventures!

Rose in RainWilderness: All of our trips are in a wilderness environment with no roads, automobiles, houses, etc. We specialize in exploring truly remote country. Our guides know the secret wild places, off the beaten path, where few other humans are encountered. In other words, we don’t simply hike and camp along major trails; we explore and discover the magical hidden wonders of real wilderness!


Crystal Lake PeakHighland Hikers

Our Small Group Philosophy: Smaller groups minimize impact on fragile wilderness environments. They also provide our guests with the best possible wilderness experience. That’s why we sometimes run two concurrent groups on different routes in the same general area, rather than loading up one trip with a big group of 12 or 15 people. At Big Wild, we emphasize the “wild” in the wilderness, and quality rather than quantity. Depending upon regulations and other factors, our scheduled trips are limited to 4 to 8 clients plus our guide and sometimes an assistant.

DIVERSITY: WE WELCOME ALL — regardless of race, age, gender, sexual orientation or religion. Nearly always, folks from diverse socioeconomic, cultural and geographic backgrounds get along exceedingly well, finding common ground amidst the overwhelming natural beauty that they experience on our trips!

TO ARRANGE A TRIP with us, you can easily sign up with our online Questionnaire.  Or, simply print the PDF Questionnaire and mail completed forms with deposit to:

Big Wild Adventures
1106 W Park St #262
Livingston, MT 59047
(406) 823-0337

For connecting and lodging  information, click here.

Contact Us


Have a great time!Shoshone Lake - Version 2

Watch our scenic slideshow below for an overview of the trips we offer.

Annual Trip Calendar


Capitan Lake - photo from one of our backpacking treks

List prices include our complete gear package and there is a $300 discount if you bring your own (see our Canoeing List, Backpacking List, and/or Questionnaire for details – found here). Also, we offer a $300 discount for the second trip in a calendar year. Scheduled trips are for persons ages 14 and over. Exceptions to the age requirement will be made by us on a case-by-case basis.

Pick Your Trip Now!
or Call (406) 823-0337