Yellowstone Backpacking – Black Canyon

Trip Length 4 Days
Group Size 4–8
Activity level
Starting from
$1,249 for REI Members
$1,374 for non-members
Departures Sep 2020-Sep 2020

Spend time in the untamed wilderness of Yellowstone’s Black Canyon on a 4-day adventure.

The Yellowstone River winds its way nearly 700 miles from Yellowstone National Park to the Missouri River. We explore a scenic stretch through Black Canyon by foot, teeming with cascades and waterfalls. Carrying all we need in our packs, we quickly ditch the crowds and enjoy the solitude of remote wilderness.

Backpacking five to eight miles each day, we take time to rest, relax, and recharge on our journey from camp to camp. Anglers can even try their hand at trout fishing from one of the best rivers in the world. On our journey, we keep an eye out for wildlife, from elk and bison to moose and the occasional bear.

Looking for other options in Yellowstone? Check out our Gallatin Mountains and Bechler River backpacking itineraries, or our Yellowstone Kayaking trip.

Trip Highlights

  • Hike along the Yellowstone River's Black Canyon
  • Fish one of the best trout rivers in the world
  • Camp along the river with ample time to rest and recharge


This trip is rated Moderate Plus [3-4]. 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.

  • Backpacking

What's Included

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.


Backcountry camping, 3 nights; Optional hotels (hotels not included in trip price), 2 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Route Variation

This itinerary is subject to permit availability.

Daily mileage and elevation may change.

Day 1

Meet for group orientation before descending to the Yellowstone River.

This trip begins in Bozeman, Montana. We meet our backpacking companions at 8am at our host hotel in Bozeman.​After a gear check and brief orientation, we load our gear into the support vehicle for the two-hour drive to the trailhead. Plan on adding five to ten pounds of shared group gear to your pack. Along the scenic drive, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the Absaroka Mountain Range. After a quick stop at the Albright Visitor Center, we continue to our drive to the Hellroaring Creek Trailhead. We begin our journey by descending 500 feet to the Yellowstone River, one of the last free-flowing rivers in the continental United States. Black Canyon offers wonderful views of cascades and waterfalls. Our trail includes a couple of short (less than .5 mile) steep sections. Lunch and dinner included.

Backpacking: 6–8 miles, Elevation gain: 750'

Day 2

Cross a few creeks en route to our next camp.

After breakfast we break camp and continue backpacking down river. This section of the Black Canyon generally offers a chance to observe the abundant wildlife of Yellowstone: elk, bison, coyotes, moose, deer and an occasional bear may be seen. Our hike continues along the north bank of the Yellowstone River on a well maintained trail with a relatively gentle grade, although there are a few short creek crossings today. We arrive in camp with time to set up our tents and take an afternoon day hike before enjoying dinner prepared over the camp stove. All meals included.

Backpacking: 5–7 miles, Elevation loss: 250'

Day 3

Day hike, fish, or relax in camp.

Today is a layover day, providing us with the opportunity to really soak up the surrounding environment however we prefer. We have the option to relax in camp, fish, or explore downstream to Knowles Falls and steeper parts of the Black Canyon. There are tremendous views of the Yellowstone River as it thunders downstream full of spring runoff. All meals included.

Optional hiking: 5–7 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +500'/-250'

Day 4

Hike along Eagle Creek to the trailhead.

From camp we hike upstream along Eagle Creek to the trailhead. The trail ascends sharply, passing a nice set of cascades, before leveling off in a beautiful valley of huge meadows and isolated stands of trees. Now out of the canyon, views of the surrounding country abound. It is the perfect end to a wonderful backpacking experience. We plan to be back at the hotel between 3–4pm. Breakfast and Lunch included.

Backpacking: 4–5 miles;, Elevation gain: 1,000'

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.

What to pack

Contact Us

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 REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.