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Jesse Weber | 08.13.2017

Yellowstone National Park is known the world over for its wildlife and geysers as roadside attractions, and the majority of its 4 million annual visitors are satisfied by these spectacles without ever leaving the pavement. Lovers of wilderness, however, know Yellowstone for its vast expanses of roadless and rugged terrain, completely uncrowded and therefore unseen by most people.

Yellowstone is the Lower 48's second largest national park by area (behind Death Valley) at 3,472 square miles, and the vast majority of this is inaccessible by road. The park boasts approximately 1,000 total miles of hiking trails and over 300 backcountry campsites. Opportunities for exploration are endless, and there is no limit to adventures you can have by strapping on your pack and heading down a trail

Backcountry hiking and camping requires proper planning and preparation, of course. To find your perfect trip, start with these suggestions of some excellent backcountry adventures in Yellowstone. 

Note: All overnight trips require a backcountry permit that must be obtained in advance.

Mammoth Hot Springs Area

  • Snow Pass Trail: accesses unique geology of the Hoodoos, and connects to Fawn Creek and Gardners Hole backcountry campsites.
  • Big Horn Peak: a steep hike to a summit that lies along Yellowstone's Sky Rim Trail.

Old Faithful Area

  • Firehole Meadows: unforgettable tour of some Yellowstone's most iconic scenery, including a distant overlook of Old Faithful.
  • Fairy Falls: linking the famous Grand Prismatic Spring with Fairy Falls makes a rewarding day hike, and you can also link with Goose Lakes for an overnight journey. 
  • Lava Creek Trail: following Lava Creek Canyon past Undine Falls makes a logistically simple but rewarding day hike or overnight trip. 

Tower Area

  • Specimen Ridge: amazing route that crosses rivers and summits, and is frequently rated one of Yellowstone's best hikes.
  • Agate Creek: Travel deep into the lesser-seen reaches of the Yellowstone River Canyon. 

Hellroaring Creek and Yellowstone River Area

  • Hellroaring Creek Trail: offers short and long options with campsites along the creek. ​
  • Coyote Creek Trail: Follow the Coyote Creek fork from Hellroaring Creek Trailhead to find secluded campsites and links to even longer backcountry routes.
  • Black Canyon of the Yellowstone: Backpack into one of the park's most impressive geological features and among abundant wildlife.

Yellowstone Lake Area

  • There are many backcountry campsites along the shore of Yellowstone Lake. Some can be hiked to, but others are accessible only by boat.
  • Avalanche Peak: summit climb that earns amazing views over Rocky Mountain peaks.
  • Shoshone Lake: Hike to Lower 48's largest backcountry lake, where you can bring your own boat and paddle in solitude.

Canyon Area

  • Cascade Lake: short hike to backcountry sites along the lake, but also connects to other lakes and campsites for longer trips in the area. 
  • Ribbon Lake Trail: easy hike to a secluded lake and backcountry campsite.
  • Sublime Point: can be reached as an easy day hike on its own or as a side trip on an overnight.


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