Client Testimonials


Marilyn really hit it when she said “at the end of the trip, they usually say it was the best week of their lives”… I’ve been fortunate enough to go on some pretty amazing adventures, and while all were beautiful and unique experiences, none can truly compare to my week in the Yellowstone/Gallatin Range backcountry, a place that I truly feel sings to my heart. Thank you again, Howie and Matt and “the gang”, for an amazing experience. I hope to very soon sleep under the stars of another Big Wild Adventure!
— Janice Hart, Virginia


The Gros Ventre trip was completely fantastic. I admittedly had marginal expectations when I first booked it, knowing little about Wyoming and nothing about the Gros Ventre Wilderness. It was my second backpacking trip and I can’t imagine having a better time. Several of us from trip are interested in coordinating another trip together somewhere with them. I had total confidence in our guides. The geographic scenery and wildlife are something to dream about. I can’t wait for my 2011 trip.
— Steve Timmons, California


I can’t thank you enough, Howie, for the great trip to the Grand Canyon. Your expertise, relaxed attitude and obvious passion for your work combined to fashion an ideal atmosphere in which to experience the wilderness. As a “first timer” with Big Wild, there was naturally a little healthy apprehension for what I was getting myself into. However, I was at ease right away after meeting everyone and observing your leadership style. You create the perfect blend of adventure, professionalism and just plain fun. I will definitely schedule additional trips with your company and encourage anyone I can to do the same. You’ve also inspired me to try and become more involved in and aware of issues pertinent to wilderness preservation, and I’m planning to begin your suggested reading list. Thanks again for everything.
— Sheila Kirt, Arizona


Howie and Marilyn: You did an excellent job! Thanks! Last week was spectacular. The wilderness was more beautiful than I had anticipated. Diversity describes it all!! It’s such a privilege being on one of your trips. Hope to see you in the fall.
— Judy Armstrong, Ohio


I just wanted to drop you an email to tell you what a wonderful trip we had last week! It was the best trip we’ve had yet. Josh and Anna are just so great – they took wonderful care of us and we really felt like we were just out with friends after a while (friends who do the cooking, too!). They are both so knowledgeable and really entertaining. Yellowstone was spectacular and the weather could not have been better. We’ve already talked about another trip with you all. Thanks again! We loved it!
— Jo Ellen Kleindienst, Virginia


Howie, thanks for the AAA trip and being an AAA guide. I had all but given up hope. You are the best in my robust experience, the best guide I have spent time in the bush with. Your ecological and philosophical observations bring a unique aspect to a wilderness experience. If I ever find another outfitter as good as you, believe me, you’ll be the first to know.
— Bill Willcox, Florida


I’ve been on trips with Big Wild Adventures from the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona to the Brooks Range in Alaska and from Utah’s Canyon Country to Yellowstone. I’ve seen beautiful blooms of desert wildflowers in the spring, watched the caribou migrate across the Alaskan tundra and watched a pack of wolves return from their hunt in Yellowstone. In all, I’ve been on close to 20 trips with Howie and Marilyn and other Big Wild guides, and will continue as long as my legs allow. They offer a complete wilderness experience that teaches ecology, wildland conservation issues, biology, botany and geology. It is a low-impact backpacking experience that will get you into the last remaining wild places left in the US. I really enjoy the simplicity of life on the trail, the awesome sights, meeting other like-minded folks from around the country and the camaraderie that develops during a week on the trail. I’ll go with no other outfitter.
— Matt Dilley, Pennsylvania


We haven’t missed a year in the last 13 seasons of backpacking with Big Wild. Howie, Marilyn, and their great staff staff provide great experiences for both the experienced and the new backpacker. If needed, they provide all equipment. And they also provide a tried and true list of what is and what is not needed on a trip. Anyone in decent physical condition can handle most of their trips. Howie and staff are experts on the West and its natural history. It’s great to top off a day’s hike with discussion around the campfire on past trips and on local flora and fauna. And if there’s wildlife around, their guides will usually find it. We won’t go with any other company.
— Gary and Melody Larson, North Dakota


Hello Howie: The more I reflect on the Alaskan adventure, the more in awe I become because of your incredible skill. In a place where one wrong step could be disaster for the entire group, you guided us safely through the magnificent maze of the Alaskan tundra. Nary a misstep! When one is safe day after day, one is coaxed into a false sense of security. And there you were, marching efficiently through that difficult marsh or crossing ice-cold rivers at the safest point (after specific instructions for crossing rivers) or crossing over ice-covered rivers, or descending steep mountainsides, or calling for rain gear at just the right time. Simply amazing!

Perhaps you take your gifts for granted. I don’t! Now that I have survived two remarkable adventures with you (Yellowstone’s Remote Corner and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), I know with certainty that the quality of my personal experience would have been less without your leadership and teachings. It is amazing how you can “read” the land and describe the meaning of what we see. Whatever hopes I had for these trips, and I had a few, they were exceeded beyond expectation. You are a brilliant and passionate professional. And as my Grandfather was fond of saying to the good guys, you are a “good scout”.

I’m truly proud of our accomplishments and am grateful to share the stories.
— Doug Brown, California


The best decision we made was selecting Big Wild Adventures for our backwoods hiking vacation. Howie’s extensive knowledge of the backcountry made our trip safe, enjoyable, and very relaxing. We look forward to many more vacations with them and highly recommend you do too.
— Bill and Joanna Galonek, Massachusetts


I am starting my seventh year backpacking with Big Wild Adventures and I wish now that I had begun twenty years ago! Howie Wolke has provided me with the opportunity to experience some of the wildest, most breathtaking and remote areas of our great land. I’ve taken 5 scheduled and 3 Custom trips, all of which have been great wilderness and learning experiences. Howie and Marilyn and their guides are top notch naturalists who enjoy sharing their knowledge and love for the great outdoors and the ecosystems in which they travel. They always stress safety during each trip and are all trained wilderness first responders. And, I believe that the last remaining wild ecosystems and wilderness areas will continue to survive at least partly through Howie and Marilyn’s tireless efforts.
— Stan Duncan, Florida


I’ve been on numerous backpacking trips with Big Wild Adventures. Their guides are true professionals. They possess the knowledge and expertise that is truely unmatched. I can honestly say that a backpacking trip with Big Wild Adventures is an experience of a lifetime and a life-changing event. Most of all, it’s fun!
— Sandy Kahan, New Jersey


I just wanted to say thank you again for making my first backpacking trip a memorable and enjoyable experience. I certainly know how to pick’em, don’t I? I’m hooked now, so you will definitely see me again.
— Kimberly Parks, Tennessee


I love taking Big Wild Adventures trips. Their guides’ knowledge and experience is so vast, that you know you are in good hands and you see and learn so much. They take you away from the tourist traps and crowds and you get to see the beauty of the backcountry in a way that few people do. All of the details are taken care of, so your only concern is having fun and enjoying yourself. If you want to take a backpacking trip and see the wild as it was meant to be seen, then Big Wild Adventures is for you.
— Beth Phillips, Wisconsin


While walking through many wild areas with Howie and Marilyn and other Big Wild guides, I’ve always been in awe of the territory they explore and also how they do so with low impact values and a laid back demeanor. Exploring real wilderness landscapes with a group such as this can really open a feeling of genuine freedom if you allow it.
— Chris Meyers, New York


Howie and Marilyn: The Yellowstone Remote Corner Through Hike was one of my most memorable vacations ever. It was physically challenging at times, but the rewards were absolutely priceless. We hiked to another world so far away from the distractions of everyday life. You two were the perfect hosts and guides, both sharing such valuable local knowledge and a wonderful sense of humor. The Yellowstone scenery was utterly breathtaking and the overall experience simply unforgettable.
— Susie Wakefield, London U.K.


Big Wild Adventures has provided me with some of the most memorable outdoor experiences of my life. In my dozen or so hikes with them I have visited remote, wild and beautiful locations all over our country. And because the trips can be far from civilization, the guides are meticulous with equipment preparation and client safety. Howie Wolke’s experience as a guide is, I’m sure, unrivaled and I couldn’t imagine trekking out with anyone else’s outfit. He is an outdoorsman in the great tradition of John Muir because he understands the beauties and importance of our wild ecosystems and has devoted his life to protecting that heritage for future generations.
— Rick Cannon, Florida


The Death Valley trip was my first backpack/hiking experience. Being a novice I appreciated your attention to safety and detail, which only added to my enjoyment of the trip. I was impressed by the beauty of the desert with the many plants and flowers in bloom. The open desert, sand dunes, vegetation, and rugged mountains combined to make Death Valley a surprisingly beautiful and peaceful place.

I was anxious to experience the Alaskan wilderness and the land of the midnight sun, and I wasn’t disappointed! On our flight into ANWR I was in awe as the bush pilot quickly descended to give us a closer look at two grizzly bears lounging on the blue ice at the bottom of a canyon. What a treat! Then only a few hours later, as we began our first day’s hike, we came across a young adult grizzly sleeping in the sun on a mountain slope! He belly must have been full, because after giving us an annoyed look, he lumbered off ahead of us and eventually out of sight. The caribou, Dall sheep, moose, and all the creatures were majestic to observe in their natural habitat. Spending a week in the beautiful pristine wilderness of ANWR was an exhilarating, humbling, and yet serene experience.

Thanks for the great trips, Howie!
— Greg Kirt, Michigan


A Big Wild Adventure is always a highlight of my year. Pushing myself both physically and mentally while enjoying the wilderness is definitely part of a “mountaintop experience” (literally and figuratively). There are no better conversations than ones around a roaring campfire with people from all over the country and different walks of life. I have continued many valuable friendships that began on Big Wild Adventures.
— Amy Exstrum, Nebraska


The 7 Big Wild backpacking trips I’ve been fortunate enough to go on so far, including 2 in Alaska  and 1 trip with one of my sons, are among the most memorable and rewarding experiences of my life. Howie and Marilyn and other Big Wild guides have led me into extremely remote and pristine backcountry where I likely would have never ventured on my own. Their guides are really skilled and are very knowledgeable about the environment and the wonderful wildlife we encountered, and I’ve learned so much about the wilderness from them. The trips are always safe and well-organized, and the guides are really good company. I can’t think of a better way to experience the natural beauty and peacefulness of the wilderness than on a trip with Big Wild Adventures.
— Bob L., Ohio


Exhilarating – if I had to provide one one word to summarize the wonderful Remote Corner hike it would be that. The first night in the Yellowstone wilderness was certainly somewhat nerve-racking, but it’s amazing how quickly the vistas, the hikes, nights around the campfire and the awe-inspiring beauty that surrounds us became part of the daily life, and I loved it! I came out of the hike feeling really blessed to have seen such a beautiful part of the country, lucky to have had Howie as our remarkable guide, and so inspired by what I saw and did that I plan another trip soon!
— Helen Preston, New York


Dear Howie, Marilyn and Josh: The boots are cleaned off, the cloths washed, and I am desperately trying to get comfortable with a tie around my neck as I stand in the classroom. But the film is all developed, giving me some unforgettable memories of a great week in Wyoming. Once again, I thank you all for making that week such a tremendous experience for me. I was challenged physically and mentally, yet was able to relax and enjoy each day. Of course, the compatibility of the entire group helped considerably in making the trip that much more enjoyable. As expected, after leaving I can only remember one or two of the dozens of jokes that bounced back and forth over the campfire. All the best to you in the coming year — and I hope I can work it out to join you on another trip next summer.
— Bill Wieand, Virginia


Seth and I had a memorable trip into the upper Yellowstone with Steve and Diane. They made a big contribution to the experience, as well as being knowledgeable and friendly company for 6 days. The equipment that you provided was excellent for our “mission”, and we both appreciated that the tentage kept us dry through two nights of rain, one of which was a night-long hard rain with some hail thrown in. We look forward to going on another trip with you folks soon. Thanks for the great experience!
— David Sgorbati, New York


Dear Howie and Marilyn: I wanted to thank you for the trips that I have been able to go on with your company. They have been far and above any expectations that I had when I signed up. Starting with the first trip to the Grand Canyon, the Yellowstone trip and finally the Alaska adventure last summer, I was always very comfortable with your knowledge and skill while on the trips, which made me be able to relax and enjoy the trip experience. There was always more than enough to eat, good conversation, and enough alone time to put all the hectic day to day life out of my mind. I would recommend your company and your trips to anyone and will hopefully be able to continue to take a yearly trip with you. Thanks again.
— Tim Halstead, Michigan


The Big Wild backpacking trips are some of the best vacations I’ve ever experienced. They are challenging, breathtaking and scenic treks through wilderness areas that can only be experienced by backpacking. I went on both the Yellowstone Remote Corner Through Hike and the Beartooths trip, and both trips were extremely well-organized and guided. The meals are outstanding, and the trips foster camaraderie with new friends. For anyone who likes active outdoor adventure trips, you can’t ask for more.
— Charles Gnaedinger, Washington, D.C.


When you step into the wilderness with Big Wild, you are in the hands of passionate experts. Passion — they care about the environments they are showing you and how to conserve them. They care about enjoying the outdoors while leaving the minimum impact on the countryside so that future generations may have the same opportunity to experience it, and they care about the well-being and enjoyment of their guests. Expertise — all the Big Wild guides I have met have been brimming with knowledge about the mountains, flora, wildlife, weather, environmental issues, conservation, navigation, mountain safety and even history. With Big Wild, you get a real backcountry experience with the comfort that they’ll handle whatever nature throws at them. I have done 4 trips with them (so far), and they have all been truely excellent.
— Patrick Holmes, London U.K.


I am writing this letter to say thank you very much for a wonderful trip in the Tetons. I had a great time. I learned a lot from your vast experience and knowledge of the outdoors. The trip was everything that I thought it would be and much more. I am looking forward to booking another trip with you next year. I also have to say that you and Matt were real professionals. Keep up the good work!
— Damon Perfetti, New York


I meant to send this email sooner.  I just wanted to say that I had a great time on the trip.  What a beautiful part of the country.  And Matt is fantastic!  He was informative, energetic and flexible – we all really enjoyed our time together. I will definitely be taking a Big Wild trip next year.  I have to check out your other trips but I think that I want to do a backpacking trip in the SW.  Take care and thanks again!

— Anthony Dobson, New York


Howie, I thoroughly enjoyed hiking with you in the Absarokas this past August and am grateful to you and Mary for everything you did to accommodate our motley crew of foot soldiers. Your expertise as a professional guide was clearly evident as you adapted to whatever curve-balls were thrown your way — from having to change the itinerary at the outset because of the nearby fire, to navigating through a recently burned forest where the footpath was very difficult to follow. And your skills as a backcountry chef were truly impressive. The quality and quantity of backcountry cuisine that you provided definitely surpassed my expectations.

— Thomas Lewis, Pennsylvania


Last week was an incredible week hiking through the Jedadiah Smith Wilderness. First, Josh was a fantastic guide. His knowledge about the Jedadiah Smith Wilderness was second to none. The weather was great including the little rain we encountered Saturday morning, and the views of the Teton Range will be with me forever. Our group had very good dynamics and the conversations kept on flowing. Anyway, unfortunately it’s back to reality now. I have to dive back into my work, but I will have the memories of last week to get me through. If you need a reference to promote your business, please contact me; I would be glad to provide one. Take care, and I hope to see you again soon!

— Ernie Bailey, New Jersey


Hi Howie and Marilyn: It was truly a fantastic trip – a good physical challenge, as well as a great way to power down and go off the grid. I’m sure all the Big Wild options are great first trips, but this one really was spectacular. It exceeded all of my expectations and set a high bar for any backpacking trip that follows! Josh and Emily Jo were fabulous leaders and the group got along really well, which was a bonus. Unfortunately, I got sucked back into “real life” as soon as I walked in the door of my apartment, but I have amazing photos of snowy mountain peaks and wildflowers that will help me re-live the experience. Now, where to go next… looking forward to seeing the 2015 trips.

–Ilana, New York


Howie and Marilyn, I wanted to thank you for the trip of a lifetime. This was my first adventure backpacking extensively and everything about the trip was phenomenal. Bob as guide was always safety first, full of information and I am coming away from this trip with a new sense of reverence for the Wilderness, an understanding of proper methods of leave no trace camping and new friends from the hiking group. There are too many things to mention about the benefits of this trip. Bob was 5 out of 5 stars! I am already eagerly awaiting the trip schedules for next year and beginning to look at the stores to purchase my own pack, sleeping bag and tent! You have a convert! Thanks for running such a great business and providing such a valuable life experience.

Brian Pilcher, North Carolina


I had such a wonderful time on our Yellowstone trip. David was such an informative and delightful guide. I very much enjoyed the route and the places we stayed and appreciated that we had time to relax and swim and explore along the way! I told my sister about the trip and I sent her your website link….she and I are both hoping to do a trip early next year. Thank you so much for making this fantastic trip possible!

Alyca Kerr, Illinois


I want to let you know how enjoyable my trip with Bob was. It was everything and a lot more than anything I was expecting. I really loved the shear expanse of nature around us at all times. The food was great and I can assure you we never went hungry (quite the opposite) and Bob made sure we were safe and sound at all times. It was a week I’ll never forget and I am already longing for the peace and quiet of the wild outdoors. It was  impossible not to feel very humbled out there, and I sincerely hope that I’ll be able to do another trip in the years ahead.

Damon Pezaro, Australia


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.

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