Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Adventure Traverse (GREAT)

Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Adventure Traverse (GREAT)

Page Type Page Type: Route
Additional Information Route Type: Hiking
Seasons Season: Summer
Additional Information Time Required: Expedition
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: Class 3
Sign the Climber's Log


The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Adventure Traverse ("the GREAT") is an insane long-distance route of approximately 600 miles through Wyoming and Montana.  I devised this route to link all the great mountain ranges of the Yellowstone Ecosystem into one route.  From north to south, these are: the Beartooth Mountains (northern Montana, all others are in Wyoming), the Northern Absarokas, the Southern Absarokas, the Washakie Mountains, the Teton Range, the Gros Ventre Range, and finally the Wind River Range.  The GREAT crosses 9 wilderness areas and 2 national parks on its journey south from the Beartooth Mountains all the way to the Wind River Range.  

I believe this route to be the most scenic and grand long-distance backpacking route in North America, outside of Alaska.  Yes, an immense claim considering the multitude of natural beauty on this continent, but I believe the mountains surrounding Yellowstone NP to be the pinnacle of scenic grandeur and untamed wilderness (at least in the lower 48).  And a single route to link them all?  One route to rule them all?!  I don't believe anyone has even thought up something this crazy, or even knew it was possible!  
Well after much research, let me tell you it's possible with very little road walking (only 32 miles total, mostly at resupply points, and all roads you do have to walk are among the most scenic in America).  That leaves about 570 miles of on and off-trail travel (all non-technical) through some amazing places.  Some highlights include traversing the Beartooth Plateau, climbing (by side trip) the most isolated peak in the lower 48, passing through the most isolated spot by nearest road in the lower 48, traversing the majority of the Teton Crest Trail, and rambling off-trail in the Wind River Range (yes, the whole range is an alpine delight).  In fact, there's way too many highlights to list here, and many are of breath-taking vistas that few people have ever seen.  Indeed, large portions of the GREAT go through unquestionably the wildest and most remote wilderness areas in the lower 48; not even rangers know much about what is back there.  Don't be fooled by a trail on a map, especially in the Absarokas.  Trails can disappear and be completely rerouted compared to maps, thus many "trails" are closer to off-trail routes.    
The GREAT Map Overview
"The GREAT" Map Overview

Route Description

The GREAT is much too complicated to describe with any type of detail here.  In the "External Links" section, I will link to several GPS tracks that detail the route.  Following are some important details about the route.
It is recommended that you do the traverse north to south because of snow melt and seasonal issues; really, it is the only way to complete the route, trust me.  The GREAT should take approximately 60-66 days to complete for a fit and experienced backpacker (the only type of person who should attempt this).  There is only about a 2-week window during most years to start this route: the first-third weeks in July.  The ideal start is mid-July and ending in mid-September.  

There are 3 resupply stops along the route. They are equally-spaced about 2-2.5 weeks apart depending on your speed.  
1. The Boy Scout Camp along highway 14/16/20 west of Cody, Wyoming. 
2. Flagg Ranch in Northern Grand Tetons.
3. Green River Lakes Area in-between the Wind Rivers and Gros Ventre Range. 

Essential Gear

An ice axe should be included in the Green River Lakes resupply for use on glaciers in the Wind Rivers.  Bear canister, bear spray.  Most of the GREAT goes through prime grizzly habitat. 

External Links

***All the following links are to my own routes I have published.  All these routes end where the next begins, from north to south, and cumulatively comprise the GREAT.

Also check out my SummitPost page detailing the Wind River Traverse.  


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