Yellowstone Backpacking – Lamar Valley to Pelican Valley

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

Spend four days backpacking, sightseeing and animal-spotting in Yellowstone’s Lamar and Pelican Valleys.

Elk, pronghorn, bear, wolf, moose—there is no shortage of wildlife in Yellowstone’s spectacular Lamar Valley. The area’s vast, far-reaching landscapes are renowned as a haven for these animals, and provide the perfect view for spotting them. The remote Pelican Valley is widely known as a premier grizzly bear habitat in the United States; its meandering meadows and creeks make for a perfectly serene backdrop for our adventure.

Beginning in Lamar Valley, backpack south along the banks of the Lamar River, keeping eyes peeled for some of the 67 species of mammals that live in the park. Take a cooling dip in the river, or just let its tranquil sounds lull you to sleep from the comfort of our riverside campsites. Traveling in the shadow of the Absaroka Mountain Range, cross up and over Mist Creek Pass, ultimately dropping down into the beautiful open meadows of the magnificent Pelican Valley. By the end of the through-hike, the sights, sounds and smells of Yellowstone’s most spectacular landscapes will be forever etched into our minds.

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

Keep your eyes peeled for all creatures great and small such as these rivers otters enjoying a midday nap.

Trip Highlights

  • Enjoy a four-day backpacking adventure through Yellowstone National Park
  • Explore the remote and tranquil Lamar and Pelican Valleys
  • Search for iconic Yellowstone wildlife
  • Expert guides share their knowledge of Yellowstone’s geology, flora and fauna


This trip is rated Vigorous [4]. Trip members should be capable of carrying a backpack weighing 35–45 pounds for distances of 5–12 miles per day for four consecutive days with daily elevation gains/losses of up to 1,400'. This is not a beginning backpack trip. You must have experience backpacking and camping in remote locations.

  • Backpacking

What's Included

Professional guide leadership; roundtrip transportation from Bozeman, Montana, to Yellowstone National Park; meals as noted in the daily itinerary; tents; group cooking gear; campsite and permit fees; park entrance fees.


Backcountry camping, 3 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Itinerary map for Yellowstone Backpacking – Lamar Valley to Pelican Valley
Route Variation

This itinerary is subject to permit availability.

Daily mileage and elevation may change.

Day 1

Transfer to Yellowstone National Park and hike into the backcountry

This trip begins in Bozeman, Montana. We meet our guides and fellow backpackers in the lobby of our Bozeman host hotel in the early morning. After a brief orientation and gear check, we jump into our waiting vehicle and begin the three-hour drive to Yellowstone National Park. Our route takes us through the north entrance of the park, past Mammoth Hot Springs and on to the Lamar Valley. We arrive at our trailhead around lunchtime and, after fueling up for the trek ahead, we begin our hike into the Lamar Valley backcountry, renowned for its tranquil beauty and wildlife viewing. Our trail follows the Lamar River and requires that we ford Cache Creek before reaching the first backcountry campsite of the trip. After a delicious dinner prepared by our guides, we slip into our tents for a restful night’s sleep under the Rocky Mountain sky. Lunch and dinner included.

Backpacking: 5–6 miles; Average elevation gain/loss: +750' / -550; Transfer time: 3 hours

Day 2

Backpack through the Lamar Valley and search for park wildlife

Today we continue into the heart of the Lamar Valley, known as North America’s “Little Serengeti.” Keeping our eyes peeled for some of the 67 species of mammals that live in the park, we continue backpacking south along the banks of the Lamar River. Even the river itself harbors life with native Yellowstone cutthroat trout living and spawning in the flowing waters while making a comeback as a result of recent protections. Fly fishing permits are available online (barb-less catch and release only). We pitch our tents this afternoon on the Lamar riverbank, as serene a campsite location as one could ever hope for. All meals included.

Backpacking: 8–11 miles; Average elevation gain/loss: +1,650' / -1,250

Day 3

Continue along the Lamar River to Mist Creek

After a hot cup of coffee and a hearty breakfast, we break camp and continue backpacking along the Lamar River to Mist Creek. We hike through rolling grasslands and smell the sagebrush, navigating some creek crossings and passing over a footbridge en route to tonight’s campsite. The rugged peaks of the Absaroka Range come into view and the wildlife-viewing possibilities remain strong. These valleys and grasslands are home to elk, pronghorn, bison, bears, wolves, moose and many other wild creatures. Tonight, the music of Mist Creek plays in the background as we tuck ourselves into our sleeping bags and drift off to sleep. All meals included.

Backpacking: 8–10 miles; Average elevation gain/loss: +1,400' / -450'

Day 4

Hike over Mist Creek Pass and descend into Pelican Valley

We get an early start this morning in preparation for our last big day of backpacking. We climb over Mist Creek Pass and begin a downhill cruise into the spectacular Pelican Valley, known as some of the premier grizzly bear habitat in the U.S. Our route takes us past the Pelican Springs backcountry ranger cabin, along the meandering creek, and through the spectacular open meadows of Pelican Valley. Reaching trail’s end, our van awaits to take us on a scenic drive along the shores of Yellowstone Lake and through some of the park’s geothermal areas before beginning the return drive to Bozeman. We plan to arrive back in Bozeman between approximately 7–8:30pm this evening. Breakfast and lunch included.

Backpacking: 10–12 miles; Average elevation gain/loss: +1,100'/-1,400; Transfer time: 3 hours

Itinerary map for Yellowstone Backpacking – Lamar Valley to Pelican Valley

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.

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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.

Trip specifics may change over time. Reviews reflect the version of the trip that was active at the time the reviewer took it. Please review the itinerary as described above and call our team for any additional details.