Scroll to the bottom to find details on planning your own Yellowstone River Trail trip. Or check out my other website – YellowstoneTrips.com – and I’ll plan your trip for you!
The latest High Country News has an article titled, “The death of backpacking.” In it writer Christopher Ketcham asserts, for various reasons, that Gen Xers, specifically folks 40 and under, aren’t into backpacking. It’s hard work, there is no adrenaline payoff (if you do it right), and it takes you away from flashy technology.
That’s probably all true, but as someone who just got back from backpacking with a seven-year-old through Yellowstone, I felt a little defensive. (My math-minded readers will note that I am not 40 or under, but I’m going to let that one go–41 is close enough, and I am a stereotypical Gen Xer.)
Admittedly, there were moments while we walked along the Yellowstone River Trail, gasping at the beauty of the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone, the bright wildflowers, and rushing water, that I thought the whole thing was ridiculous. Why would I carry all the gear and food for two people (sans Anders’ sleeping bag), through clouds of biting deer flies, over hot, exposed hills, while playing 20 Questions 20 times?
I won’t go into all the wonders of getting into the backcountry, spending real time with your kid, slowing down, and seeing places that most people don’t even know about. You have to go to know.
So, I can see why backpacking may be dying. It’s hard work.
I do wonder about the data Ketcham used to make his point. He looked at the fall of backpacking gear sales. My backpack and stove are 12 years old, my beloved Crazy Creek chair, which blew out on this trip (may it rest in peace) is 21 years old, and my sleeping bag is 18 years old (it can vote and go to war!). My water filter is in the same age range…you get the idea, I’m not buying a lot of gear. Backpacking stuff holds up, and even when it doesn’t you can improvise because it’s not a safety issue. The biggest problem with old gear is that it’s heavy.
I am all over the place here and I really just wanted to show you pictures of our trip. Grab a beer, because there are a lot of them!
Plan Your Own Trip
Why: Spectacular scenery, lack of people, great fishing
Where: The Yellowstone River Trail in Yellowstone National Park. We started at the Hellroaring Trailhead and ended at USFS Eagle Creek Campground. Night one was at 1R1 Cottonwood Creek and night two at 1Y2 Knowles Falls. Each day was about six miles.
Who: Anyone who wants to walk up and down six miles for each of three days with a lot of weight on their backs. Also, backcountry lovers, solitude seekers, and mother-son teams.
How: Reserve a permit through the mail after downloading a reservation form and sending in $25. The permit is free (the reservation has a fee) and you can chance it and get a permit from any backcountry office in the park the day before or the day of your trip. I want a guaranteed reservation, so I always pay the money– it would be a bummer to show up all packed and ready to go and then not get a permit.
My favorite guidebook for hiking or backpacking in Yellowstone is Hiking Yellowstone National Park: A Guide to More than 100 Great Hikes. However the western two miles of trail has changed since he wrote this, so talk to a Park Service person about the new detour. I couldn’t find the new trail on any maps, either. It’s hard to miss, though. Keep walking to Bear Creek, then another few minutes until a trail sign points you uphill. It’s a slog for a couple miles before reaching a Forest Service campground where you left your car.
We brought this Trails Illustrated Topographic Map. You’d be hard pressed to get lost on this trail (follow the river!), but it’s nice to see distances and the names of surrounding creeks and mountains. Plus, you should always have a map.
And you can’t go wrong with a plant identification book. I use Plants of the Rocky Mountains by
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1 thought on “Backpacking the Yellowstone River Trail”
very charming picture!