Yellowstone – Bechler River Trail

Location Yellowstone, WY. Kepler Cascades Trailhead.
Distance 83 miles
Total Elevation Gain 6530 ft
Topographic Map

If you want to see quintessential Yellowstone, this is the trip! You’ll see thermal features, lush river valleys, high waterfalls, and a tundra plateau.

On the first day, you’ll hike past a geyser which serves as an instant indication that you’re in a strange land. Try to time the start of your hike so that you can get to Lonestar Geyser as it goes off.

The next few days will be spent hiking down in to the Bechler River valley. The canyon walls will slope up rapidly away from you as you approach the rushing river. You’ll have to cross the Bechler several times, but if you come late in summer the water height and speed should not be overly challenging. It is a good chance to introduce yourself to river crossing.

The valley offers beautiful campsites and the only park sanctioned sit and soak hot spring. Make sure you make a stop at Mr. Bubbles. Sitting in a natural hot tub in the middle of the wilderness is a once in a lifetime experience (albeit smelly).

Once on the way up to the Pitchstone Plateau, you are unlikely to see anybody. Very few people hike up to this dead end trail, which is a shame because it offers some gorgeous views out across the Rockies–something noticeably missing while you’re down in the valley.

Heading back to loop around will give you the opportunity to sit and stare out at Shoshone Lake. This area is probably the most crowded you’ll hit. It’s an interesting feeling to be among that many people again.

Once you get back to your car, hop over to the Old Faithful area to see the famous geyser go off. Take a, most likely, much needed shower at one of the lodges while you’re there.

  • To do this trip, you will need to put in a request for each individual campsite and day with the National Park. The topo map linked here includes all campsites near the route.
  • The trail to Mr. Bubbles is not marked! Look for the trail offshoot by campsite 9D1.
  • The trail going up Pitchstone Plateau is very lightly used! My group lost the trail on the way up (around 44.1602,-110.8140) and had to use map and compass skills to find the trail again. If you find yourself in this situation, take a bearing on the unnamed lake visible from the top of the hill then head due west from the edge of the lake. The trail is recoverable there.
  • Walking on the road is a bit terrifying because the shoulder alternates between narrow and non-existent. However, for small groups (1-3 people) hitchhiking is a good option. The road is very busy with friendly tourists.

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