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Backpack - Lamar Valley

Epic eight-day/seven-night trip in Yellowstone NP. The Lamar Valley is the best place in North America to see megafauna. Expect to see Grizzly Bears, Black Bears, Wolves, Moose, Elk, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep, Bison, Badger, Fox and more. The landscape is equally stunning with multiple mountains, plains and river valleys to explore. This will be a very unique wilderness experience. Please read the lengthy additional information in the Leader's Note. ***Leader's Permission Only Trip***

  • Strenuous
  • Challenging
  • Mileage: 95.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 15,000 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 10,000 ft
  • Pace: 1.5-2.0

Meeting location and time will be determine once the backcountry campsite have been secured.  We need to set up a car drop for a shuttle between trailhead.  If we have more than five people we will need three or four cars in Yellowstone.  Carpooling options can be made available but are voluntary and optional.  Yellowstone NP is a one to two day drive from Seattle and will require extra lodging and extra travel days beyond the actual dates of this trip.

If you are a wilderness and animal lover, this will be a trip of a lifetime.  This trip is an eight day, seven-night one-way shuttle trip beginning at Yellowstone Lake and heading north touring the Pelican, Mist, Miller and Lamar Valleys.  We will also on days 5-6 head up above the Miller Creek valley and hike the high crest of the Absaroka Mountain Range.  The Lamar Valley, and adjacent areas in Yellowstone NP, is the place to be to see all the great animals of  western North America.  Participants must be okay with knowing that Grizzly Bears and Wolves will be seen on or near the trails/routes and/or passing by our camps or hanging out nearby.  I have seen both of these amazing animals from my car in the Lamar Valley on several Yellowstone trips.  We will certainly see them in the backcountry--likely multiple times on our trip.  Yellowstone NP has a strong wildlife safety plan/protocol and training video that we will watch and follow strictly.

This trip is dependent on procuring backcountry permits for a popular area.  The actual dates of the trip and the precise itinerary may vary from what is listed in the posting and described below.  The plan is for the trip dates to be as close to those posted as possible.  I should know the actual dates  and camps at or before May 1.  There is a lottery system set-up for those desiring a chance to get early reservations.  This runs from March 1-20.  With the "winner" getting first shots at reserving backcountry site starting in April.  All those desiring to participate in the trip need to spend $10 and sign up for this lottery.  The participant with the earliest date will need to work with the leader to procure permits for the whole group.  This lucky participant will need to pay the $290 dollars up front for the permits (if we have eight people).  We will need to collect $37  from each participant to pay them back.  Backcountry permits are $5 per night, per person, plus a $10 permit fee.  See all the details here:

The hoped for itinerary is a shuttle loop of about 95 miles and 15,000' total gain.   We will start in the south near Yellowstone Lake at the Pelican Valley trailhead, head north and end at the Lamar Valley trailhead.  Each day we travel roughly 10-13 miles.  Most days the total gain is around 1,500'. Day 5 is an outlier and has the most gain with a full pack of about 3000', but is also the shortest day at 7.5 miles.  Day 6 is a day-hike out and back on the crest of the Absaroka Range and has 3,100' of gain.  At eight days, this will be strenuous trip.  Here is the Gaia route I am hoping for:  Each day is show in a different color and labeled.  If you expand the screen on Gaia you can click on any day and see the distance and elevation gain or loss.  There will be some off-trail travel on Days 5 and 6 and possibly other places that look interesting.

Special Registration:

Due to the special nature of this trip, participants will be chosen by application.  It is vitally important that we can work together well as a team, have similar goals and expectations, all have similar conditioning and travel speed and all observe safe wildlife practices.  Those that have been on a previous backpack trip with me will have a leg-up, because I know you and you know my style.  Those that I don't yet know can provide references from those I know and respect in the Mountaineers.  I am planning for a group up to eight.   I will choose group members that I believe will have the highest compatibility and skills for success.  I will respond to all applicants by or before March 4th.

Note:  This trip will be done in coordination with a second week-long backpacking trip to the nearby Beartooth Wilderness--just north of the Yellowstone NP.  This second trip will be a high altitude, more rugged mountains, off-trail exploring type of trip.  I will be posting it with the Mountaineers within a week or so.  Registration preference may be given to participants  desiring to do both trips.  There will be a day or two rest days between trips.

Please use the Permission tab on the right sidebar to send in your application.  Send in your application ASAP.  I will respond back with my selections by March 4th.  Please address all of the questions/concerns below:

1) Tell me about your backpacking history.  Have you done long trips of about a week or more?  Please describe details and date.  Can you gain 3,000' in a day with a full backpack?  Can you store in your pack and carry eight days of food for a seven night trip?

2)  If you have not been on several backpack trips with me, please give a reference of someone at the Mountaineers I can consult with about your appropriateness for this trip.

3) There will be dangerous wildlife on this trip including Grizzly Bears, Wolves, Bison and Moose.  They will likely be on or near the trails and camps.  Are you comfortable with this possibility?  Will you bring bear-spray?  Will you follow Yellowstone's safety protocol? 

4)  This is a wildlife focused trip.  We will stop often to look at, admire and seek understand the ways of animals.  We could stop for up to 30 minutes or more on the trail to fully appreciate a significant animal encounter.  Are you okay with this?

5)  This trip has numerous creek and river fords. The look to be easy to moderate in late July.  Likely the worse being knee deep.  Additionally there are a few places where will be travel off-trail, particularly on days  5 and 6.  Are you experienced with these two skills and experiences?  Fording shoes and two trekking poles are required.  Will you bring these?

6) Are you willing to send $37 to me by March 20th, for you part of the campsite fees?

7) Are you willing to enter the Yellowstone Backcountry Lottery to help the group increase our odds of gaining the permits for the itinerary listed above?  This costs $10.  Will you work with the leader to choose his itinerary and then pay for the entire group if you have the earliest lottery date?  The permit for eight people for seven nights should be $290.  Everyone needs to pay me upfront their $37 dollars.  This will be remitted to the lottery winner and permit register-er.

8)  What sort of conditioning, earlier season backpacking trips will you be doing before this trip, this year, to demonstrate proper conditioning for this eight-day trip?  Do you have any health issues that could affect your ability to do this trip comfortably and successfully?

9) Do you understand that both the itinerary and dates shown are approximate and may change according to the campsites that are available?  They won't change wildly, but may be different camps, different dates (within a few days--I hope) and a different trip length-likely shorter than longer.  This things I can't control.

10) This trip requires a lot of logistics, permits and financial investment.  On a scale of 1-10, what is you commitment to making every effort to coming on this trip if you chose to register? Please do not request permission now and decide later if you really want to come.  Do the work upfront to decide if you can really do this and then stick to it.  If you can't make this sort of commitment then this trip is likely not for you.

11)  Is there anything else you would like me to know?  Is there any more information you need from me in your decision making?

Thanks all, I hope you can join me.  This should be an epic and memorable trip.  Rob

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials plus overnight gear which may include:

  • Tent 
  • Stove and fuel
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Water filter
  • All your food for eight days
  • A 35 foot cord designated for hanging food
  • A water resistant bag or bags big enough for eight days of food with handle/loop to hang
  • Cooking pot/pan with plate and utensils
  • Toilet paper and shovel or blue bag to deal with waste
  • Sun hat and sun protection
  • Warm clothes including warm hat, gloves
  • Full rain gear
  • Pack Cover
  • Large thick plastic trash bag or similar to line inside of your backpack if we encounter rainy weather
  • Fording shoes
  • Two Trekking poles
  • Optional--binoculars, camera with telephoto lens, book to read, podcasts , earbuds, earplugs
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