Previously, I posted about my experience backpacking in the Heart Lake Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park. It required much planning in terms of gear, our itinerary, and registering with NPS. The hard work was worth it, though. So, here are some resources we used for our visit.
Our first criteron for a backpacking spot was a place where we could safely chill out in some geothermal water. While the Bechler area in the southwest corner of the Park has this is spades, the trailhead for the Heart Lake Geyser Basin is more accessible. It’s trailhead 8N1 located just off US 191/287 in the southern section of the park, on the eastern side of the road (across from Lewis Lake).
Our second criterion was something that could be done as one overnight, in the range of 15-20 total miles. This was just enough distance to hike in one day and finish before sundown. We felt we’d “gotten away from it all,” without pushing ourselves too hard to cover some ridiculous injury-inducing daily mileage. The trails continue around the lake, however, and onward to the Continental Divide Trail, so a multi-day trip is possible.
There are descriptions of this hike online, including this great Backpacker magazine document. It has a map, profile, and is formatted as an infographic. This visual format is very concise and, if printed out, portable. It includes the side trip to climb Mt. Sheridan, which we didn’t do.
For my part, I found the Lonely Planet:Yellowstone guide book most useful during the trip. In the Park, it was great to have a resource that didn’t depend on WiFi or cell connectivity, and we used it to find other (non-backpacking) sites and activities. Looks like the .pdf version for a tablet, etc. is a steal at $3.49.
We used National Geographic map #201 for Yellowstone while backpacking. It shows topography and much more detail than the NPS-issue park map/brochure.
The NPS process for obtaining your backcountry permit is here. There are a handful of backcountry permit offices throughout the park, and you must visit, sign waivers, watch a safety video, and have your dates and destination in mind. As described in my previous post, the backcountry is staffed and they will check on you at your assigned campsite. It’s the most strict process I’ve experienced, but not unreasonable. Restricting the flow of backcountry visitors meant that we saw few people, and were able to have a memorable wilderness experience for a couple days.
My favorite “primer” on of the local ecology is here, at the Yellowstone wiki.
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