Backpacking is one of those recreational activities that can appear daunting, but it doesn’t have to.

The difference between backpacking and hiking is simple: backpacking requires you to carry all of your gear, food and other essentials as you hike the trail. If you’re itching to get away from popular hiking spots and cookie-cutter car-camping sites, then strapping a pack to your back and hitting the trail is the way to go.

Although backpacking in Wyoming requires detailed planning and is more physically demanding than a day hike, the rewards make the effort worthwhile and give you solitary access to Wyoming’s most coveted areas. Standing atop a vista and looking straight into the Rockies’ staggering silhouette, silently watching wildlife go about their day and getting away from the hubbub of city life is why newbie backpackers quickly turn into seasoned ones. Use our guide below as an overview of backpacking basics, how to plan and Wyoming’s best backpacking destinations.

Do Your Research

The importance of planning for backpacking cannot be emphasized enough. Backpacking is a break from regulated trails and campsites, so it’s imperative that you plan ahead and are properly prepared. Purchasing a guidebook on basics and learning about the area you wish to explore is good place to start when it comes to learning about safety, leave no trace techniques (minimizing your impact on the local ecosystem) and other important information such as permits, water access, weather and the best time of year to go.

Talking with park rangers (call the phone numbers listed on the national forest or park sites to get in contact) and fellow backpackers via online forums in order to gain first-hand knowledge is the ideal way to get prepared for your trip. You should know your exact route and camping location before heading out, and talking to rangers and veterans will help you solidify the gritty details. Telling family or friends your exact route is also an important safety measure.

Each area has specific regulations, permits and other hoops that you must jump through before you just up and trek. Permits are typically acquired at ranger stations or visitor offices, and there are limited permits given out far in advance. Use our suggested backpacking locations below for direct links to park-specific information.

Consider a Guided Trip

Guided trips are a great alternative to planning your own excursions and allow you to relax and get the hang of the sport with a knowledgeable ally. Guides are more familiar with the territory and can assist in all aspects of planning, from food and gear to wilderness safety. Find Wyoming hiking guides.

What to Pack

With Wyoming’s high elevation, it could be sunny and dry at one moment and cold and wet at the next, so layering your clothing and packing items that are versatile and waterproof are key. And remember, even if the days are upward of 90 degrees, nights can get down into the 30s. Pack only what you need (heavy and luxurious items must be left behind) and have a backpack that’s comfortable and appropriately sized for your body. Proper hiking footwear will prevent pesky sores and give you stable support on the terrain — just make sure to break them in beforehand.

Use the destination website and guidebooks to help solidify in more detail what else you need on your trip and don’t overlook the importance of seemingly out-of-date essentials like a map and compass. The final packing list will be dictated in part by the location. Food and water is obviously an important aspect that you’ll want to plan ahead for. Writing down your detailed food list will make shopping and packing less stressful. Depending on the area, you may need to buy water-purification tablets; don’t make the mistake of underestimating how much water you’ll need.

Get in Shape

Conditioning before your trip will make the physical component of backpacking more enjoyable. You’ll fee more energized at the end of the day and be able to cover more ground if you’re prepared for the physicality that the high country demands.

Trips can range from an overnighter to multiple days, so know your boundaries and abilities before you plan your route. If you’re a beginner, don’t try to overachieve and go beyond your ability by hiking farther into the area than necessary. After all, just getting out there is an achievement within itself.

Where to Go

Consider trekking in one of these popular Wyoming backpacking spots. Permits are required at popular locations and are usually available about two days before you begin.

Yellowstone National Park

The Yellowstone website has done an exceptional job of giving backpackers comprehensive information for planning a trip. Download their backcountry trip plannerand get important planning information for permits, reservations, bear precautions, safety tips, weather conditions, hiking trails, campsites and other FAQs. More information.

Grand Teton National Park

Similar to Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park has a downloadable trip planner that is a must-read before embarking on your adventure in one of the country’s most sought-after backpacking destinations, made so by its iconic and photogenic peaks. Follow the detailed trip-planner guidelines for a seamless transition to the Tetons’ land. More information.

Wind River Range

The “winds” are a conglomerations of 35 mountain peaks rising more than 13,000 feet, allowing not only diverse backpacking trails but also stunning views of these sculpted mountainsides. Start planning with the Visit Pindale website and learn about the area’s abundant trailheads; ranging from popular routes to lightly treaded trails that don’t see hikers too often.

Other popular Wyoming backpacking locations:

Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest and Thunder Basin National Grassland
Bridger-Teton National Forest
Bighorn National Forest

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