Hot Springs and Waterfalls Llama Hike, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14193A, Backpack


  • Discover the joy of lightweight llama travel
  • Enjoy the awesome waterfalls of Cascade Corner
  • Soak in natural hot springs


  • Llama pack support, naturalist llama wranglers
  • Optional transportation from Jackson to trailhead
  • One of our most experienced leaders


DatesSep 7–12, 2014
Difficulty3 (out of 5)
StaffRoger Grissette

Trip Overview

The Trip

This late-summer hiking and base camp outing tours the remote and magical lower Bechler River region of Yellowstone National Park, also known as “Waterfall Corner.” Tucked into the southwest corner of the park, it is a waterfall lover’s paradise, abundant in plants, wildlife, and bubbling geothermal features. Trembling hot springs are tucked in a gorgeous canyon that forms a natural relaxing spa for soaking our cares and trail dust away.

Partners in our outing group will be the gentle and well-trained pack llamas that carry our gear and the group’s commissary. Experienced wilderness travelers regard Yellowstone as a living laboratory, and one of North America’s premier hiking destinations. Our trip will be a moderate and enjoyable hike, when we'll carry only daypacks, that's interspersed with layover days and the opportunity to pursue personal interests and activities. The approach of autumn brings the blossom of early fall colors and the bugling of elk.

Rather than trying to devour all of Yellowstone's riches in one gulp, you'll be able to concentrate on this exceptional area. After driving from Jackson, Wyoming, our trip will begin at the Bechler Ranger Station. We’ll never be far from the rivers and we'll focus on an area that provides a cross-section of what this magnificent place is all about.


A Pre-Trip orientation session precedes every Sierra Club National Outing. The purpose of this meeting is to get acquainted and discuss how we can safely & enjoyably travel as a group in the wilderness. On the evening of Saturday, September 6th we will have the all-important group outing orientation session. This mandatory meeting will be held in the meeting room at Antler Motel in Jackson, WY at 5:00 p.m.

Day 1: There will be a scheduled pick up of participants from Jackson area lodging facilities. Participants will be picked up beginning at 7:00 a.m. Then we’ll proceed to the Bechler River trailhead. We’ll have a drive of about 80 miles (about 2.5 hours), entering the Park from Idaho. After loading the llamas, our hike will start at around 11:00 a.m. Today’s hike takes us through the beautiful Bechler Meadows. It is a 6.5-mile walk over easy terrain, with little elevation gain, to Trail Springs Camp at the mouth of Bechler Canyon. Our biggest challenge will be a late-day crossing of the Bechler River before making camp for the evening.

Day 2: From Trail Springs, we will break camp and hike approximately seven miles, while gradually ascending a beautiful canyon trail with about 1,000 feet elevation gain. We will have a couple fords of the meandering river before arriving in the late afternoon at Three Rivers Camp. We will set up a comfortable base camp near Three Rivers, where we will spend the next two nights.

Day 3: This is a leisurely layover day. We will day hike in the beautiful Three Rivers area at the head of Bechler Canyon. This area is the junction of three major tributaries of the Bechler River. It also home to many beautiful waterfalls that we will explore. Nearby are thermal spa’s to visit and soak in. The most famous is “Mr. Bubbles.” This is a large pool and is considered the best hot spring spa in Yellowstone.

Day 4: This is a moving day. After packing, we will retreat down the canyon and return to Trail Springs. The day will allow for a leisurely morning and time around camp so participants will have the opportunity to pursue personal interests and activities.

Day 5: This is a short hiking day. We will pack up and move camp up to Boundary Creek. After setting up camp, we will day hike to the thundering Dunanda Falls and find the best place to soak in the numerous thermal features along the creek. There’s one situated in the spray beneath the falls. Returning to camp, we will enjoy our last dinner together surrounded by the forest and meadows and blessed with a full moon.

Day 6: After packing up one last time, our final day on the trail returns us through the meadows to the Bechler Trailhead. We will say goodbye to our close llama companions and their wranglers. We’ll shuttle back in the early afternoon and should be back in Jackson before dinner.



Getting There

Our trip schedule is set up to accommodate your travel to and from Jackson, Wyoming. Many will fly in on Saturday and return on the weekend following your outing. For those interested, the leaders are willing to rent a fully insured vehicle on a shared-cost basis to transport you to and from trailhead. This cost is estimated at an additional $150 per person. More details will be in pre-trip correspondence. The Bechler River trailhead is located in the southwest corner of Yellowstone National Park, near the Idaho border.

As the gateway to both Yellowstone and Teton National Parks, Jackson is one of the most vibrant and enjoyable tourist destinations in the U.S. West. The Jackson Hole Airport has daily air service provided by many airlines. There are also transportation services that can take you from the airport into Jackson. Jackson is also a convenient place for supplies and lodging both before and after the outing. Specific information and directions about transportation, lodging, and the Jackson vicinity will be provided upon registration. Detailed bulletins will also be sent prior to the start of our adventure. 

Accommodations and Food

The leader takes pride in providing appetizing and fulfilling meals. Past trip participants have roundly praised the quality of his menu! Dinner is the largest meal of each day with soup, main course, and dessert on some nights. The leader can accommodate vegetarian diets. Participants with dietary restrictions or requests must divulge these needs in application materials before the trip. Participants will assist with all camp chores, including the preparation and clean up of meals on a rotating basis. The Sierra Club will provide stoves and other cooking equipment. Our pack llamas will carry all of our food and the group’s equipment. The first meal provided would be lunch on September 7, and the last will be lunch on September 12th.

Trip Difficulty

This is an on-trail hiking outing that has been rated as “3.” We will carry only daypacks as the llamas will carry some of our load. Our route travels up to 35 miles of well-maintained trail, with an average of about 4-7 miles per day. The biggest challenges to participants are several wet, cold stream crossings that can be thigh-high. The trail follows a river and creeks through vast meadows and a gradual ascending canyon. The trailhead elevation is 6,200 feet, and there is minimal elevation gain. Our daily schedule will be flexible. One and a half layover days are planned where off-trail opportunities and personal activities may be enjoyed. Leaders always take the weather, health, and welfare of the group and its members into account. Our route offers some possibilities for flexibility in scheduling and modification if needed.

Do NOT assume that because llamas will carry some of our weight that you can do this trip without a conditioning program. You should be self-confident in your abilities and be able to assure yourself and the leader that they are capable. Those without any backpacking experience must discuss this with the leader. The minimum age for trip acceptance is 16 unless the leader provides approval.

Any backcountry trip is a potentially strenuous activity. The demands on one’s system, both physical and psychological, require planning, discipline, and preparation in advance of the outing. The leader will describe suggested conditioning exercises in pre-trip correspondence.

The weather in the Southwest Yellowstone region can be unpredictable. September is generally a dry and pleasant time to travel. Rain is always possible, so all participants should be very well prepared for extended periods of bad weather. Daily afternoon temperatures in the 70s are not uncommon at this time of the year, and cool crisp nights as low as the 30s could be expected. The Bechler Region is one of the wettest in the park. By traveling in the late season, we expect to avoid the soggy conditions that are present in the spring. The leader and the outfitter feel that our journey is scheduled for a period when overall conditions in this region are best and quite enjoyable. The mountains should be in their early-autumn prime, with pesky mosquitoes and tourist crowds absent, but with elk bugling!

Equipment and Clothing

Probably the most critical item is for you to have sturdy, broken-in, well-waterproofed, mid-weight hiking boots that are in good condition. Full equipment lists and comprehensive equipment consultations will be provided to approved participants. It is expected that participants will only have to carry some of their daily personal gear, as our llamas will haul our group gear and food. Please note that the llamas can carry only about 30 pounds per person. Sometimes particularly bulky items may not fit in their carriers. So be ready to carry anything over the 30-pound weight. 



The Greater Yellowstone region is an irreplaceable crown of our Park system. It encompasses 3,400 square miles and is part of the largest and most important ecosystem in America. It’s estimated that nearly 1/3 of all Americans will visit the world’s first national park during their lifetime. Yellowstone National Park is currently experiencing increasing environmental pressure. Multiple concerns stem from global warming, efforts to expand mineral and petroleum exploration, and antagonism to public land and wildlife protection. Finally, all our parks are suffering from continued budget cuts for staffing and maintenance.

Our trip takes place in an area most of us believe to be preserved by its national park status and wilderness status, but most of the wildlands in adjacent states have no such legal protection. Did you know that Idaho farmers continue to propose damming and flooding this part of the park so they can grow more potatoes for your McDonald’s French fries?

We will discuss what wilderness protection means, reasons for protecting more land as wilderness, and how we can do so. Broadening our focus, we'll also consider the health of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, its relation to the Yellowstone-to-Yukon movement, and perhaps topics like the "extinction vortex" facing flora and fauna in the beloved and over-loved Yellowstone National Park.

Each evening, we will allot time to discuss national and local environmental issues. You are encouraged to come prepared and introduce any topics of interest.

We'll practice minimal-impact camping techniques and we will strive to leave little or no trace on the land we visit. 

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



Roger Grissette has led outings for many years in the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, as well as the Eastern Sierra, Utah, Mexico, and Hawaii. Leading four to five trips per year recently, he's thrilled to share these adventures and their sense of discovery with a diverse group of Sierra Club members. Discussing challenges that face the wild places his trips visit is always a highlight for him, as is the time he spends in the camp kitchen. "Sometimes I feel I'm preparing a dinner party," he says. When not backpacking, he spends his spare time playing traditional music with friends in a string band.

Assistant Leader:

After attending a Sierra Club trip several years ago, Pam Dalitz felt right at home. While enthusiastic about her love of nature, Pam wants to encourage others to get outside, while learning to preserve our remaining pristine wilderness. Pam has backpacked, hiked, bicycled, in the U.S. and Canada. She currently fills the role of Equipment Officer for the Rocky Mountain Sub-committee. Pam is a Wilderness First Responder, and works as a nurse in a very busy hospital. Pam shares her love for the outdoors with her two Golden Retrievers.

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