Yellowstone National Park

In America's most celebrated park, adventure doesn't begin at the trailhead; it begins at trail's end.
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In America's most celebrated park, adventure doesn't begin at the trailhead; it begins at trail's end.

These may be the best hikes we've ever profiled. Unknown to more than a handful of people, the three routes strike deep into the remotest corners of Yellowstone's 2.2-million-acre backcountry. Bison, bears, wolves, hot springs: These places are so spectacular the park service would put up viewing platforms--if they were more accessible. Lucky for you, they aren't.

But these treks aren't for the timid. Each one involves difficult route finding, miles of bushwhacking, and some of the thickest grizzly habitat in the Lower 48. To make them even more sporting, significant portions aren't traced on any previously published map. We've simplified navigation by mapping the routes and providing GPS coordinates for every twist and turn. The rest--getting your legs, lungs, and off-trail skills in backcountry shape--is up to you.

Expedition Planner

Regulations Required permits are available at any ranger station. To reserve a backcountry campsite, submit a Trip Planning Worksheet (available at www.nps.gov/yell) and $20. Hikers going where campsites don't exist can request special permits through the backcountry office (307-344-2160).

Bears Travel noisily to prevent encounters. Hang food, cookware, and toiletries. Pitch tents 100 yards upwind from cooking and food storage areas.

Thermal areas Give them a careful berth, as superheated steam and boiling mud have burned incautious hikers. Soaking in hot springs is illegal.

BACKPACKER'S CUSTOM MAPS: Hike these exact routes with our exclusive Yellowstone topo. Available at www.backpacker.com/mapstore, this high-quality USGS quad contains GPS waypoints for more than 40 points of interest.