- Take in sweeping vistas from the Gallatin Crest Traverse
- Spend four days backpacking through majestic terrain
- Get to know a less-traveled side of Yellowstone
Tucked away at Yellowstone's northwestern edge are the Gallatin Mountains, an area largely unknown to visitors, yet home to breathtaking, expansive views. Our four-day trip explores the Gallatin Crest Traverse, challenging backpackers with steep climbs and drops—only to be rewarded with stunning scenery as far as the eye can see.
Let REI get you away from the crowds and into Yellowstone's spectacular backcountry on this guided excursion. Take in the beauty of expansive mountain ranges and scenic lakes as we venture deep into the park.
- Night before - Optional stay in Bozeman.
- Day 1 - Meet for orientation and head out from Specimen Creek trailhead.
- Day 2 - Hike to Gallatin Crest and take a dip in High Lake.
- Day 3 - Our most rewarding day, hiking to Shelf Lake.
- Day 4 - Take in our last views before descending to the trailhead.
Trip Itinerary and Details
Important Notice: Day 1 is the day you should plan to arrive at the meeting point for the trip. This may require departing your hometown one or more days in advance and traveling on an overnight flight.
Night before - Optional stay in Bozeman.Since we will meet at 7:00 a.m. on Day 1 of your trip, you may choose to arrive in Bozeman, Montana the night before (not included in the cost of the trip). We recommend staying at the Holiday Inn Express Bozeman West, where we meet on Day 1 of the trip. Your car can be left at this location. Be sure to make reservations as far in advance as possible to ensure the availability of rooms. To make reservations call the hotel directly at 877-410-6667.
Day 1 - Meet for orientation and head out from Specimen Creek trailhead.
Our group meets at 7:00 a.m. in the lobby of the hotel. After a gear check and brief orientation, we load our gear into the support vehicle for our drive to the trailhead, about an hour and a half from the hotel. Plan on adding 5-10 pounds of shared, group gear to your pack. Our hike begins at the Specimen Creek trailhead at 7000 ft. in the scenic Gallatin River Valley that roughly defines the park's northwestern boundary. The trailhead is our lowest elevation of the trip as we trek up to the crest in search of stunning mountain vistas. We end our day at a beautiful camp in the meadows along the shores of Specimen Creek. Lunch and dinner included.
Hiking: 6 miles; Elevation gain: 1000 ft.
Day 2 - Hike to Gallatin Crest and take a dip in High Lake.
After a casual morning we continue following Specimen Creek upstream through beautiful meadows and majestic stands of spruce and fir until finally we arrive at Gallatin Crest. A short distance to the north along the trail is High Lake. The lake is nestled among subalpine meadows and will be our camp for the night. Once camp is made the group will have the option of swimming in the lake. All meals included.
Hiking: 4 miles; Elevation gain: 800 ft.
Day 3 - Our most rewarding day, hiking to Shelf Lake.
Today's route is the most rewarding of the hike. Shortly out of camp we have tremendous views of Paradise Valley to the east. Further on we leave the main trail behind to make use of an obscure trail that sticks to the crest. This old trail is not marked on any map and is known only to a handful of locals. Dramatic views of the western valleys dominate this part of the hike. Our destination is Shelf Lake, the Park's highest point at 9,200 feet above sea level, nestled on a bench above the North Fork of Specimen Creek. Once camp is made we have the opportunity to hike up to the most dramatic part of the crest for views of the Madison Range to the west with an opportunity to see bighorn sheep. Sunsets here are a sight to behold. All meals included.
Hiking: 7 miles; Elevation gain: 400 ft.
Day 4 - Take in our last views before descending to the trailhead.
Our final day is a long descent of the north fork of Specimen Creek to its junction with the main. The trail descends sharply from Shelf Lake into thick and beautiful stands of spruce and fir. Specimen Creek grows rapidly as we descend and soon we are in the beautiful lower meadows that we hiked through on the first day. A final, mostly level two miles bring us to the trailhead. We plan to be back at the hotel by 6:00 p.m. Breakfast and Lunch included.
Hiking: 8 miles; Elevation loss: 2,200 ft.
Although we do our very best to adhere to the schedule listed above, this itinerary is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control. This trip is operated rain or shine.
Contact REI Adventures prior to purchasing your airline tickets to confirm that the trip has the minimum number of participants required to operate.
Professional instruction and guiding; meals as noted in the daily itinerary; 2-person tents; group cooking gear; group first aid kit, water filter; campsite and permit fees; park entrance fees; round-trip shuttle between meeting point and trailheads.
All Yellowstone backpacking trips are conducted under the authorized concessionaire permit of Wildland Trekking Company.
Transportation from your hometown to group meeting point; any hotel reservations; insurance of any kind; alcoholic beverages; soft drinks; guide gratuities and items of a personal nature.
This trip is rated Vigorous (4). Participants will be carrying their own backpacks with weights of 35-40 lbs. over varied terrain and at altitude. Please make sure your backpack is fitted to your body before the trip. Trip members need to be in good physical condition. To maximize your enjoyment of the trip, we strongly encourage you to take up a training regimen beforehand. Day hiking with a pack and making sure your hiking boots are broken in before your trip is key. Cycling, running, walking and weight training are also good conditioners for this type of outing. The better shape you are in, the more you’ll enjoy all that Yellowstone National Park has to offer.
Depending on the date of departure, daytime temperatures usually range between 50o - 80o F with evening temperatures dropping into the 30s-40s. On early and late season departures are prepared to encounter lows of 30 degrees or colder. You may encounter freezing temperatures at some of the higher elevations. Afternoon thunderstorms are a distinct possibility, so adequate raingear is important.
If you are traveling alone we will assign you a roommate of the same gender if possible. A limited number of single accommodations are available, and are assigned only as necessary.General Information
This trip is subject to the booking information set forth in the current REI Adventures Weekend Reservation Information. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A full gear list and detailed pre-trip information is sent upon sign-up. We highly recommend the purchase of travel insurance through REI Adventures. If coverage is purchased at the time of your initial reservation, the 'Pre-existing Conditions Exclusion' is waived (certain exclusions apply).
We look forward to having you join us for the trip of a lifetime! Why wait? Space is limited, reserve your adventure today.
Yellowstone Backpacking – Gallatin Mountains Gear List
The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. Try to bring only what is necessary—this will help you and the field staff.
- Tents (3 season, 2 person)
- Cooking gear
- Stoves and fuel
- Water filter
- Group first aid kit
- Bear canister
- Bear spray
- Backpack: large internal frame or external frame (65 – 80 liter)
- Pack cover – waterproof
- Sleeping bag (rated at 20° - 25° F)
- Sleeping pad
- Rain jacket and pants, lightweight waterproof and breathable
- Light weight warm synthetic or down jacket (mandatory for early and late season trips)
- Midweight fleece jacket or wool sweater
- Mid- or lightweight thermal top and bottom made of synthetic or wool (mid weight for early or late season departures)
- Extra warm clothing for early or late season departures
- Hiking pants, quick-drying, lightweight (zip-off legs are great) no jeans!
- Hiking shorts, quick-drying, lightweight
- 1-2 T-shirts, synthetic
- 2 changes of underwear
- Hiking socks, 3 pairs of wool or synthetic
- Sock liners, 3 pairs of synthetic liners (optional)
- Sun hat with brim
- Wool or fleece hat
- Lightweight wool or fleece gloves
- Hiking boots: heavy duty, waterproof, and well broken-in, should rise above ankle
- Two 1-quart water bottles or hydration system equivalent (recommended to bring one 1-quart bottle even with hydration system)
- Plastic bowl, spoon, travel mug with lid
- Sunglasses and retainer strap
- Sunblock, (small amount—not the whole bottle), min SPF 25
- Lip balm (unscented)
- Insect repellent (small)
- Head net for mosquitoes, especially in July
- Toothbrush & trial-sized paste
- Pack towel and/or washcloth
- Personal first aid kit, small and light with personal medications
- Favorite energy snacks and drinks
- Bic lighter
- Travel size wet-wipes
- TP system: toilet paper (not a full roll) & 1 Ziploc quart baggie & 1 Ziploc gallon baggie and orange plastic trowel
- 1 large plastic garbage can bag
- Trekking poles (highly recommended)
- Pocket knife or small multi-tool
- Ear plugs
- Lightweight camp shoes/sandals
- Journal & pen
- Camera and film- think weight
- Small paperback book
- Swim suit
- Down vest or jacket
- Headlamp with spare batteries and bulb
Feel free to give us a call at (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out www.rei.com/learn. The Expert Advice section on our "Learn" page has great information to help you prepare for your trip.