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backpacking the yellowstone trail

Anders and I are getting ready for our annual mother-son backpacking trip, and I was reflecting back on last year’s trip in Yellowstone.

We hiked along the Yellowstone River Trail from Hellroaring Trailhead to the Eagle Creek Campground near Jardine. We walked through wildflowers, biting insects, patches of trees and meadows. We passed waterfalls, lakes, and lots of antlers and skulls left over from a hard winter.

This is a through hike without a good hitchhiking option. We left a vehicle at the terminus of the hike and got dropped off at the starting trailhead by Henry and Finn. They even hiked the first mile to the suspension bridge with us.

The campsites along the Yellowstone River were amazing. We should have spent a week at each one. This is a great trail for anglers, but we were happy strolling through flowers and dipping our feet in the water.

Each day was about 6.0 miles.
There are several beautiful canyons in Yellowstone, including the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone, which we passed through on this backpacking trip.

Day 1 Pictures

Our Itinerary

Day 1: Hellroaring Trailhead to 1R1 Cottonwood Creek

Day 2: Cottonwood Creek to 1Y2 Knowles Falls

Day 3: Knowles Falls to USFS Eagle Creek Campground

Day 2 Pictures


Reserve a permit through the mail after downloading a reservation form and sending in $25. In addition to the reservation fee, there is now a small fee for the permit based on the number of people in your party. You can chance it and get a permit from any backcountry office in the park the day before or the day of your trip. I want a guaranteed reservation, so I always pay the money– it would be a bummer to show up all packed and ready to go and then not get a permit.


My favorite guidebook for hiking or backpacking in Yellowstone is Hiking Yellowstone National Park: A Guide to More than 100 Great Hikes. However the western two miles of trail has changed since he wrote this, so talk to a Park Service person about the new detour. I couldn’t find the new trail on any maps, either. It’s hard to miss, though. Keep walking to Bear Creek, then another few minutes until a trail sign points you uphill. It’s a slog for a couple miles before reaching a Forest Service campground where you left your car.

We brought this Trails Illustrated Topographic Map. You’d be hard pressed to get lost on this trail (follow the river!), but it’s nice to see distances and the names of surrounding creeks and mountains. Plus, you should always have a map.

Day 3 Pictures


  1. Such a wonderful photography and amazing scenes. Yellow stone river is such a lovely place to hike and picnic and have fun. Backpacking is a very logical and pondering thing to do. Nice stuff on it.

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