By Michael Lanza
I wade slowly into the natural pool known as Mr. Bubble, deep in the backcountry of Yellowstone National Park, feeling the swirling blend of hot water from the natural hot springs pouring into one corner of the pool, and the cold creek water entering from another corner. I lower myself to a sitting position, chest-deep, and crab crawl to find a spot with a perfect, hot-tub water temperature—and plant myself there for a long time.
And I’m thinking: This is quite a sweet treat on a wilderness backpacking trip. I could get used to this.
Our visit to Mr. Bubble came on the second afternoon of a five-day, roughly 55-mile backpacking trip through Bechler Canyon in mid-September, the very tail end of summer, which happens to be a good time to backpack in this corner of Yellowstone. I definitely wanted to hike the Bechler after the notorious mosquito season of early to mid-summer, when dense clouds of hangry skeeters (and I do mean “hangry”) rise from the boggy Bechler Meadows and make the lives of any blood-filled creatures who happen to be here then a misery.
This trip had been on my “I’m intrigued and want to do it” list for several years for a few reasons. One is the abundance of thunderous waterfalls and cascades along the hike, created by the geology of the region and the huge winter snowpack that feeds the creeks and springs draining the plateau in the southwest corner of Yellowstone. The Bechler River is also a beauty, varying in character from a gentle, quiet, tree-lined waterway with world-class trout fishing to a raging torrent where some cascades tumble for hundreds of feet. (And the fords along the Bechler can be deep, frigid, and a bit adventurous.)
Another motivation was to explore the Shoshone Geyser Basin, the largest backcountry geyser basin in the park—imagine having Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin almost entirely to yourself.
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And the last reason was, of course, the famous Mr. Bubble natural pool, where hot water erupting from the earth—you can actually see the water boiling up from the ground just several feet away, and bubbles of heated air constantly boiling near the middle of the Mr. Bubble pool—mixes with the cold water of the Ferris Fork creek to create a wide, hot pool for soaking. We ran into a few other parties of backpackers during our lengthy soak in Mr. Bubble, where it’s not unusual for hikers to linger for hours (especially those who have the good luck of scoring a backcountry campsite nearby).
The gallery below features some of my photos from backpacking Yellowstone’s Bechler Canyon. Scroll below the gallery for the link to my story about this trip, which includes my expert tips on how to take it yourself.
A backcountry permit is required for overnight camping in Yellowstone’s backcountry. Bechler Canyon is popular, so reserve a backcountry permit in advance. Starting in 2022, Yellowstone is accepting reservations for backcountry permits during the prime backpacking season, May 15 through Nov. 5, at recreation.gov/permits/4675323. For the best chance of getting a permit for popular backpacking trips like Bechler Canyon, enter the the Early Access Lottery, which runs from 8 a.m. Mountain Time on March 1 through 11:59 p.m. Mountain Time on March 20. General reservations are open April 26 through Nov. 2.
I can help you plan this or any other trip you read about at my blog. Find out more here.
See my feature story about this trip “In Hot (and Cold) Water: Backpacking Yellowstone’s Bechler Canyon”—which, like many stories about trips at The Big Outside, includes my detailed tips on planning this trip and requires a paid membership to read in full.
See also my stories “The Ultimate Family Tour of Yellowstone” and “The 10 Best Hikes in Yellowstone,” and all stories about Yellowstone National Park at The Big Outside.