A good introduction to Yellowstone’s backcountry, this 13.3-mile trip tours expansive grasslands and forests en route to a rocky beach in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Start at the Specimen Ridge Trailhead and hike southeast across sagebrush-filled grasslands–a popular hang out for grazing bison. The path climbs steadily for 1.2 miles to a T-junction. Turn left and begin a steep switchback climb—occasionally following wolf and elk tracks—to Specimen Ridge.
At the top of the ridge, enjoy the expansive views while keeping an eye out for wolves, bison, and herds of elk. Continue hiking southeast over rolling terrain to another junction at Quartz Creek, a distinct v-shaped creek bed. Take the trail to the right, heading southwest toward the canyon—occasional antler cairns mark the way.
The descent into the canyon begins at mile 4.8, dropping more than 1,200 feet in 1.8 miles on long switchbacks (coyote and bear tracks are sometimes etched into the trail). Set up camp above the Yellowstone River near a small, open clearing marked with a campsite sign, then make the final 850-foot stretch to a rocky beach along the river.
PERMIT: Overnight camping in Yellowstone National Park requires a backcountry permit. Check out the latest fees and more details at nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/backcountryhiking.htm.
MORE PARK INFO: Yellowstone National Park, (307) 344-7381; nps.gov/yell/.
-Mapped by Jeff Chow