Back Country Camping in or around Yellowstone
March 16, 2008 10:50 AM   Subscribe

We (my kids and I) are staying with friends just outside Yellowstone this summer, and I am planning on doing a one to two night back-packing jaunt with the teenagers. Any recomendations on back country camp sites?

The Heart Lake area looks promising, but there seems to be almost endless posiibilities.
We are in good shape, but these are teenagers with their Mom, so I'd rather not make this too difficult as I will enjoy it more with a minimum of teenage whining.
Any info on Yellowstine hiking is welcome. Thanks!
posted by readery to Travel & Transportation around Gardiner, Mt (3 answers total)
From the National Park Service.
posted by netbros at 9:56 PM on March 16, 2008

Best answer: This might be a little late, but since I recently did some backpacking in Yellowstone, I'll update this for future reference.

The Heart Lake area is absolutely gorgeous. Even though the animals along the highway in Yellowstone seem more tame and are more noticeable, backcountry Yellowstone rewards you with seeing Yellowstone in its true form, practically untouched by humans. The perfect one or two night trek into heart lake, I would say, consists of hiking to the lake and climbing Mt. Sheridan. People who are fit could do this in two days and one night. My group consisted of my older relatives who were not the most fit at the time and managed just fine.

To enjoy the scenery, hike into Heart Lake day 1 and spend the night at either campsite 8H6 or campsite 8H5 (backpacking in this area requires permits for all campsites, so reserve the same campsite for two nights in a row so you don't have to move your stuff if you stay two nights).

Spend day 2 climbing Mt. Sheridan. The trailhead to Mt. Sheridan is right at 8H5 and 8H6 and is a mile or more from any of the other campsites. Its 3 - 3.5 uphill hike leads you to 360 views of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons as far as the eye can see. There is a vacant ranger station at the top that has not been used for a couple years. There is also a picnic table that is perfect for having lunch on top of the world. But best of all, if you look around in the trees, an outhouse is at an edge of the top of the mountain. It states on it "for the best experience, latch door open." And of course it faces directly out to the valley below.

The climb down is obviously much easier and took us about a quarter of the time it took to climb up. If you start early enough in the day, then you'll have plenty time to explore the lake and even have time to do some fishing if you'd like the rest of the day. (The largest fish caught in all of Yellowstone was caught at Heart Lake according to one of the rangers) The climb up to Mt. Sheridan and back took us a little over 6 hours (we were probably on the slow side).

Day 3 consists of a 7 mile trek back to the car with a 500 - 1000 feet gain in the first 2 miles of the hike back.

Beware there are bears in the area. Not as much for your safety as that the rangers will close campsites where bears have traveled through in order to keep human-bear interaction at a minimum. While we spent a week walking around heart lake, we ran into multiple groups that had to rearrange their itineraries because campsites were being closed (all though maybe that doesn't happen too often).
posted by metacort at 1:25 AM on August 18, 2008

Upon re-reading this, my group did not do it in two days. We did it in the three day/two night journey I described. I don't think we could have made the trip overnight.

Also, "Beware there are bears in the area"


But I just found this web-journal where a Yellowstone backpacker had a dangerous encounter with a grizzly. He credits having quick access to bearspray to saving his neck. He seemed to be a very experienced backpacker, and his account gave me chills as I thought back to my trip to Heart lake. Here's the link, but basically, make sure you take bear spray at your side at all times.

and here's some great pictures of Heart Lake taken by the same individual
posted by metacort at 10:17 PM on August 18, 2008

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