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.

Yellowstone River Trail Day 1

Yellowstone River Trail Itinerary

There are a lot of options for this trip, but the following is what we did.

  • 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

Yellowstone River Trail Day 2

Yellowstone Backcountry Permits

Permits are required year-round for all overnight stays in Yellowstone’s backcountry. A backcountry permit allows the permit holder and group members to camp in a designated location. Permits are not required for day hiking.

  • Peak Season (May 15 – October 31) – during the peak season backcountry permits are available online in advance or in person during the Walk-up period. Advance reservations are available at during the Early Access Lottery and General On-Sale period. Walk-up permits are available in-person at a backcountry office up to 2 days prior to the start of the trip.

Yellowstone Backpacking Resources

My favorite guidebook for hiking or backpacking in Yellowstone National Park is Hiking Yellowstone National Park: A Guide to More Than 100 Great Hikes by Bill Schneider. However, the western two miles of trail has changed since he wrote the book, so talk to a Park Service Ranger about the new route. (Essentially, follow the trail as reported to just past Bear Creek. You will see a sign that points uphill. It is a slog for a couple of miles until you reach Eagle Creek Forest Service Campground.)

We used this National GeographicTrails Illustrated Topographic Map. You are unlikely to get lost on this trail – follow the river! – but you should always bring a map. We appreciated being able to see distances, and surrounding creeks and mountains.

See more of the Best Guidebooks for Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone River Trail Day 3