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Yellowstone Backpacking – Bechler River

Trip Length4 Days
Group Size4–10
Activity level
Starting from
$1,649 for REI Members
$1,819 for non-members
DeparturesJul 2024-Sep 2024

Explore Yellowstone’s remote Bechler River on this 4-day backpacking adventure.

The call to venture off the beaten path is answered on the remote and majestic trails of the world’s first national park. We explore the Bechler River, a unique destination that offers an up-close vantage of nature at work. Discover teeming rivers and streams, the wonder of pristine geysers and hot springs, and the breathtaking beauty of meadows carpeted with wildflowers.

Our hike starts out with a visit to the Lonestar Geyser, the largest backcountry geyser in the park. We then follow the Firehole River, crossing the Continental Divide before settling into our first backcountry campsite. Later on our journey, we explore a gorgeous series of hot springs whimsically dubbed, "Mr. Bubbles". Ford two river beds and enjoy the thundering waterfall view on the other side. Along the way, stop to forage from ripe berry bushes and, with luck, view some of the park’s abundant wildlife. Hiking through the beautiful meadows and forests of Southwestern Yellowstone is a truly unforgettable backcountry experience.

If you’re looking to explore different ways to enjoy all Yellowstone has to offer, view our full collection of Yellowstone itineraries.

Relax with new friends each night in cozy riverside campsites under the wide open Rocky Mountain sky.

Trip Highlights

  • Explore remote corners of the world's first national park
  • See beautiful rivers, streams, hot springs, geysers, and wildflowers
  • Enjoy four days of backpacking surrounded by natural wonder


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. We will backpack a total of approximately 30 miles over our four backpacking days; however, the number of miles per day will vary depending on the campsite locations for each given departure. Please make sure your backpack is fitted to your body before the trip.

  • Backpacking

What's Included

Professional instruction and guiding; meals as noted in the daily itinerary; 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.


Backcountry camping, 3 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Itinerary map for Yellowstone Backpacking – Bechler River
Route Variation

This itinerary is subject to permit availability.

Daily mileage and elevation may change.

Day 1

See an abundance of geothermal pools and Yellowstone's largest backcountry geyser

This trip begins in Bozeman, Montana. We meet our backpacking companions in the early morning at our host hotel in Bozeman. After a gear check and brief orientation, we load our gear into the support vehicle for our three-hour drive to the trailhead. Our hike starts out with a visit to the Lonestar Geyser, the largest backcountry geyser in the park with a 40' eruption every three hours. We backpack along the Firehole River, passing an abundance of geysers, bubbling pools and potholes, crossing the Continental Divide before arriving at camp. Lunch and dinner included.

Backpacking: 10 - 11.5 miles depending on permitted campground location, Elevation gain: ~ 1600'; Transfer: 3 hours

Day 2

Hike to the headwaters of Bechler River and explore "Mr. Bubbles."

After a sound night's sleep and a hearty breakfast, we'll break camp and hit the trail! Today's goal is the headwaters of the Bechler River and into the heart of Bechler Canyon. After setting up camp near the riverside, we explore the valley's first remarkable geothermal feature, "Mr. Bubbles," a gorgeous series of hot springs. Bring your bathing suit as we have the opportunity to lounge in the natural hot baths. All meals included.

Backpacking: 4–10 miles depending on permitted campground location, Elevation gain/loss: +850'/-1,200'. Optional hike: 1 mile

Day 3

Ford two rivers and pass stunning waterfalls on our way to camp.

Wake up to another hearty breakfast at the base of Bechler Canyon. We have a big day along the river, with two exciting river crossings. Be sure to bring along water shoes for this section if you would prefer to change out of your boots. We work together to carefully ford these two river beds and then enjoy the remarkable reward of two waterfalls, Colonnade and Iris Falls. We set up camp only five minutes away from these spectacular sights. All meals included. 

Backpacking: 5–9 miles depending on permitted campground location, Elevation loss: 500'

Day 4

Depart Bechler Canyon and return to Bozeman

Our final day includes a long, flat section of trail leading through the lower sections of the canyon. This section is characterized by massive boulder fields and acres of berry bushes where we can stop to forage. We expect to see an abundance of wildlife along our journey and hope to glimpse the Grand Tetons in the distance. Hiking through the beautiful Bechler meadows and forests of southwestern Yellowstone is a truly unforgettable backcountry experience. After returning to civilization at the Bechler Ranger station, we begin our drive back to Bozeman. We plan to arrive at the hotel between approximately 6–7pm where we will say our goodbyes. Flights may be booked for after 9pm. Breakfast and lunch included.

Backpacking: 7–10 miles depending on night three’s permitted campground location, Elevation loss: 250'

Itinerary map for Yellowstone Backpacking – Bechler River

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.

Already booked this trip? Sign into your online traveler profile for a more detailed list of what you'll need.

REI members can shop for gently used gear online or at most REI stores. Members can also trade in pre-loved used gear online or at any REI store in exchange for REI gift card credit. Check out Re/Supply at REI to learn more.

Provided by REI

  • All Group Cooking Gear
  • Bear Canister
  • Bear Spray
  • Group First Aid Kit
  • Stoves and Fuel
  • Tent(s)
  • Trekking Poles
  • Water Filter

What to pack

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 1 (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales ( 1 (800) 426-4840 ) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.