Yellowstone: Trekking With Llamas

September 9 - 14, 2020

There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.

Theodore Roosevelt

Get ready for an unforgettable Yellowstone experience! Even if you’ve visited America’s favorite National Park previously, trekking through the most remote and breathtaking southwest corner of the park with llamas carrying all our gear is a remarkable experience, to say the least.

We cover 37 miles on our loop route trekking through the Bechler River drainage, which is known for its hot water soaking pools and impressive number of waterfalls and cascades. And speaking of water, this backcountry adventure includes several invigorating stream crossings so you’ll most certainly be getting your feet wet! Though the stream waters will be chilly, we’ll also have the chance to warm up in natural hot springs soaking pools that are near some of our campsites.

Each day we’ll hike a set amount of miles from campsite to campsite, stopping for lunch along the trail. You need to carry a only day pack, as your trusty team of adorable llamas will carry all our camping gear. Each night we’ll set up camp, enjoy a hearty meal, and relax by the campfire, taking in the dark night skies and awe-inspiring wilderness that surrounds us.

We’ll want to keep our eyes open wide as we hike along the meadows, lakes, and rivers as we may spot beavers, river otters, bald eagles, moose, and even bears!

Note: Our llama partners hold a concession contract in Yellowstone National Park, which means we are legally authorized to operate a tour there. Permits for specific campsites cannot be applied for until January 2020 so there is a chance that we will alter the listed itinerary as necessary.

Private Tour Info

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Details

  • Dates: September 9 - 14, 2020
  • Cost Per Person: $3,175
  • Optional Single Supplement: $500
  • Activities: Trekking with llamas
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Guides: Kris Keys, And Local Guides

Other Info: This trip has a maximum of 9 people.

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Trip Highlights

  • Get off the beaten path by trekking through Yellowstone's remote and stunning southwest Bechler Region
  • Hike alongside lovable llamas as they carry your gear
  • Camp in one of the most remote areas in the lower 48 states
  • Spot wildlife such as beaver, otter, bald eagles, bison, moose, and bear
  • See what the night sky REALLY looks like!
You can see an overview of our route (with mileages and elevations) here.
DAY 1 > Bechler Ranger Station & Boundary Creek Trail

We meet you early this morning in the swanky mountain town of Jackson, Wyoming. After a round of introductions we shuttle approximately two hours to the Bechler Ranger Station, just inside the southwest corner of Yellowstone National Park in an area known for its abundance of waterfalls. There are a handful of buildings surrounding the ranger station which were constructed in 1911 by the U.S. Army and served as an outpost for soldiers patrolling this region in the early days of the park. After an orientation and probably too much time exclaiming how cute the llamas are, we’ll load our gear and begin our first hike. We will travel gently upriver on the Boundary Creek Trail through lodgepole pine forest with an occasional small meadow and lily-covered pond. The forest will eventually give way to Bechler Meadows, chock full of large and small water features and where moose and bison are often seen. Fortunately for us, most of the mosquitoes and flies will be gone by this time of year! We parallel Boundary Creek, whose water is so clear it looks deceptively shallow but even in September it can still be deep. We’ll have our first stream crossing today and your guides will teach you how to safely cross, while carefully assisting you. Having your water shoes always readily available is a good idea. Once we arrive at camp, we’ll set up our tents (you can choose to relax or pitch in and help) and learn our camp routine for the next several days. You’ll be tired and hungry by this point and will be amazed at how good food tastes in the backcountry! After eating a delicious dinner prepared by your guides and enjoying the campfire (weather permitting), we will settle in for a good night’s rest in our tents!

Hiking Distance: 6.7 Miles

DAY 2 > Dunanda Falls

You will likely rise with the sun, enjoying the cool, crisp air while your guides prepare coffee, tea and breakfast. We will discuss the plan for the day, which includes breaking camp, packing up our llamas, and hiking just a couple miles to one of the highlights of our tour: backcountry hot springs! We'll cross three small streams and eventually ascend to our surprising destination (this is one of the few significant but short elevation gains during the trip). Our elevated terrain provides a stunning view of the Tetons far to the south (be sure to use the pit toilet here with “the most beautiful view in the world!”). Hope you packed your swimsuit and your river shoes, as you’ll soon be able to lounge and enjoy the peaceful surroundings in a wonderful hot pool of water! You can sit right in Boundary Creek with a close up view of Dunanda Falls as it cascades 150 feet over a cliff and provides a nice cooling mist. Afterwards, take a short hike to a viewpoint to see another cascade: Silver Scarf Falls, whose water tumbles across volcanic rock for about 800 feet, creating a bubbling waterway that descends toward the Bechler Meadows. We could stay here for days, but we need to retrace our steps back to our campsite and then continue for another 2.5 miles to our next campsite. The mileage isn’t long today, but you’ll feel like you’ve had a very full day from all you’ve seen and done.

Hiking Distance: 5.8 Miles

DAY 3 > Bechler Meadows to Mountain Ash Creek Trail

We don’t have a lot of mileage to cover today so we can linger a little longer in camp this morning and perhaps even try to sleep in a bit. The Bechler (known informally as Cascade Corner) receives the highest amount of rainfall over Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres, making it chock full of rivers, creeks, streams, and waterfalls. We’ll stop for lunch along the trail and bright orange berry clusters of Mountain Ash trees will decorate our hike today. Eventually we will arrive at our campsite along Mountain Ash Creek. We will have the luxury of settling in to this campsite for 2 nights. Before bed, be sure to spend some time doing a little star-gazing! The skies will likely look much fuller than they do at home. You’ll fall asleep to a symphony of natural sounds: crickets, wind rustling through the treetops, and the trickle of nearby water.

Hiking Distance: 5.7 Miles

DAY 4 > Layover Day & Union Falls

We don’t need to spend time breaking or setting up camp today, but we will have our biggest day in terms of mileage. Not that we will have seen many people by this point anyway, but today’s trail is even less trafficked than our previous trails! Our destination for the day is Yellowstone’s second-highest waterfall - the 250-foot-high Union Falls, named for the converging forks of Mountain Ash Creek that combine to form this beauty. After 3.5 miles of hiking, we’ll reach the Union Falls Patrol Cabin, a small A-frame with a communication antenna and a picnic bench to enjoy a snack. You can stop here if you like but why turn around now? The remaining two miles up to the Falls are fairly easy (with the steepest part near the falls). Afterwards, we can take a short side hike to Ouzel/Scout Pool. The thermal pool is lukewarm, perfect for a mid-day swim in the thermally heated waters situated at the base of a small waterfall. Who needs showers anyway!? We’ll return to camp the same way we came and enjoy dinner and our last night in the wilderness together.

Hiking Distance: up to 10 Miles

DAY 5 > Boundary Trail & Return to Jackson

We’ll rise early and break camp after our final breakfast in the backcountry. We’ll complete our Bechler Loop by returning to the ranger station where we started, via the south Boundary Trail, saying farewell to the lush meadows and stands of lodgepole pine. If you like, you can cut off the last 2.8 miles of the hike and stop at Cave Falls. Here you can spend a couple of hours relaxing or reading your book until we arrive with the van to pick you up. Then it’s back to Jackson for hot showers, a gourmet meal, and a real bed. If you have the energy after dinner, we'll make a stop at Jackson’s most famous watering hole, the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar!

Hiking Distance: 5.6 Miles or 8.4 Miles

DAY 6 > Departure

You may want to explore a few more dreams in your bed this morning, or come out and enjoy the cool mountain town of Jackson by foot before checking out of our hotel. We’ll set everyone loose for lunch and then provide a shuttle to the nearby Jackson airport afterward.

 

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Trip Accommodations

NIGHTS 1-4 >> TENT CAMPING IN YELLOWSTONE

Your double occupancy tent and group camping equipment will be provided for you as we make our way to various campsites throughout our trek. You can bring your own sleeping bag, or rent one from us.

NIGHT 5 >> MOUNTAIN MODERN MOTEL / JACKSON HOLE

This modern boutique motel is located right in the heart of Jackson within walking distance of the infamous Town Square. It offers comfortable rooms as well as a heated indoor pool and oversized hot tub to melt away the tense muscles and aching feet after our week of hiking.

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Arrival & Departure

We begin and end this trip in Jackson, Wyoming, which is serviced by most major airlines.  We meet early in the morning on the first day of the trip at our headquarters hotel, which means you'll need to arrive the night before. From there, we'll shuttle directly to the Bechler Ranger Station and begin our trek.  You are free to depart any time on the last day of the trip.  We'll explore the town of Jackson by foot this morning, check out of our hotel by 11 AM, and Zephyr will provide a group airport shuttle after lunch. 

What's Included?
  • One Zephyr guide accompanies the llama guide on this trip.
  • Llamas to transport the majority of gear and food.
  • Double occupancy lodging is included. If you are traveling solo, we will match you with another traveler of the same gender. However, you may pay a single supplement to have your own tent and hotel room.
  • All meals are included.
  • All group camping equipment is included.
  • All your transportation is included once you meet your guides on the first day.
  • All trail fees and permits are included.
  • Bear safety equipment including bear spray canisters and food-hanging gear.
  • Emergency equipment including a first-aid kit and satellite phone.
  • NOT INCLUDED Gratuities to your guides, personal expenses, and travel to and from the destination.
Weather

Weather is always unpredictable in Yellowstone and autumn is no exception! The average temperature in September is in the mid 50s with highs in the upper 60s during the day and can drop to the upper 30s at night. Bring lots of layers, including rain gear.  We'll provide you with a detailed packing list.

Hiking with Llamas

Working llamas have been packing weight from one destination to another for humans for more than 4000 years. On this trek, we'll be accompanied by loveable llamas who will be carrying the majority of our gear and food. They'll allow you to carry less weight on your own back though you'll still need to carry a daypack to keep water, snacks, and extra layers close at hand during our daily treks. 

Extending Your Stay

You might consider arriving early to Jackson to help acclimatize to the altitude or extending your stay in the Yellowstone area to explore more of the park after our hiking trip has concluded. 

Changes to Your Itinerary

While everything under “What is Included” will remain the same, the actual restaurants, hotels, and activities listed in our itineraries are subject to modifications. Changes that are out of our control are common – a restaurant closes or loses its awesome chef, a winery changes its visiting hours, a hotel gets remodeled, a road or trail undergoes construction. You are entrusting us to create an outstanding vacation for you and so it is possible we may take the liberty of making necessary changes (even at the last minute, during the guides’ scout trip) to the itinerary that will improve your overall trip experience. If there is any one experience that is going to make or break your trip, please discuss this with us in advance! We will attempt to keep our website itinerary as current as possible and communicate any major changes with you in the weeks prior to the tour.

 

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