Stock Packing Regulations

A person riding a horse leading a string of horses behind.
“Packing unavoidably has a great impact on the country simply because horses and mules are big animals and have to eat. Packers have to accept this and make every effort to minimize the effects of their passing.” —from Packing In On Mules and Horses by Smoke Elser and Bill Brown, two Montana horse packers.

NPS / Jim Peaco

 

Traveling in the Yellowstone backcountry with horses, mules, or llamas is an exciting way to see the park. By their very nature, these large animals have the potential to leave great impacts on the land around them. To assist you in planning a safe, enjoyable, and low-impact trip, rangers have developed the following regulations:

  • Overnight stock use is not allowed until July 1st. Day use may be allowed before July 1, but is dependent on trail conditions. To be certain of which trails are open, check with park staff in the backcountry office where they can provide you with information on trail conditions, river crossings, and possible closures.
  • Only horses, burros, mules, ponies, and llamas are permitted in Yellowstone.
  • The following are prohibited in the backcountry: hay, pets, weapons other than legally permitted firearms, food or equipment caches, and motorized equipment (including chainsaws).
  • Stock may not be left at trailheads or kept in front-country, drive-in campgrounds overnight.
  • Prior to heading out in the backcountry you are required to obtain a backcountry permit which is available at backcountry offices.
  • Bring only enough stock to accommodate your party and equipment. “Ponying” extra stock is prohibited. You'll have less work with fewer animals and less impact on the land .
  • Stock users must possess proof of a negative Coggins test performed within the last 12 months for all equine stock entering Yellowstone. The certification paperwork must be signed by a licensed veterinarian and be available for examination by park rangers.
  • Game animals or animal parts may not be transported through backcountry areas or on backcountry trails anywhere in the park, with the exception of the Mountain Creek and certain portions of the Sky Rim trails when a game transport permit has been issued.
  • Securely wrapped, certified weed-free hay is allowed in the front-country but no hay is allowed in the backcountry.

Hay and straw harvested from weed-infested areas and, vehicles, trailers, and equipment used or stored in areas infested with weeds can trap noxious plant seeds. If not detected, they can promote weed invasion in Yellowstone. Please read Exotic Plants—Don't Let Them Ride with You to help you make sure you don’t carry invasive plants into Yellowstone.

At The Trailhead

Manure at the trailhead must be scattered or (preferably) removed. Keep stock off roadways, except at designated trail crossings. All feed must be processed to eliminate weeds and weed seeds. Securely wrapped, certified weed-free hay is allowed in the front-country but no hay is allowed in the backcountry.

Trails Not Suitable For Stock
Thermal Areas, Artist Point, Avalanche Peak Trail, Beaver Ponds Trail,, Canyon Trails, Harlequin Lake Trail, Osprey Falls Trail, Monument Geyser Basin, Seven Mile Hole Trail, Sheepeater Trail, Shoshone Geyser Basin, Storm Point Trails, Tower Falls Trail, Trout Lake Trail, Upper Terraces, West Thumb Overlook, Wraith Falls Trail.

On The Trail

Trail travel must be single file on the established tread. This prevents braided trails and damage to surrounding areas. Short-cutting or cutting across switchbacks is prohibited. Stock groups may take day rides off-trail. Pack strings may not travel off-trail. Take only one pack animal to accompany the riding group to carry lunches, supplies, etc.

It is strongly recommended that picket rope(s) or saddle hobbles be carried so that stock are not tied to trees. All pack stock must be led; loose herding or free-trailing is not allowed.

In Camp

Each backcountry campsite has a limit on the number of people and stock allowed at the site. Reserve campsites in advance for overnight stock trips.

Use only the fire ring already established in the campsite. Creating another fire ring is prohibited. Not all campsites allow for campfires.

Extinguish your campfire thoroughly and, sift through the ashes for unburned food and trash, which must be packed out. Remove all foil, glass, etc.

Keep in mind that whatever retention method you use (hobbles, pickets, electric fence, etc.), it must be set up and/or moved often enough to prevent damage to the resource. Select grazing areas carefully. Locate grazing sites at least 100 feet from streams, lake shores, trails, and camping areas. Avoid grazing in areas that have already been heavily grazed and, remember to rotate grazing areas often. Overgrazing weakens grasses, allows weeds to overtake native grasses, leaves nothing available for the next party, and ruins the beauty of the meadows.

Keep your stock in the core camp only long enough to pack or unpack. A shorter time in camp means less impact and less manure that must be removed. Core camp is defined as that area within 100 feet of the fire ring or cooking area.

Manure in the core camp must be completely removed, and manure in the grazing areas must be scattered (kicked). Scattered manure breaks down quicker and harbors fewer parasites. Subsequent users will find cleaner campsites and fewer flies. Watch where your stock graze so you’ll know where to look for the manure. Be prepared to spend extra time to locate and scatter manure throughout the entire grazing area, not just what you see on the way to and from your horses.

We have no corrals in Yellowstone’s backcountry. No permanent improvements such as corrals, tables, or tent frames may be constructed.

Tying stock to trees or constructed highlines for short periods (tacking and/or packing) is permissible, provided it does not damage the trees or the vegetation. Do not tie to a tree smaller than six inches in diameter. It is not a violation to tie a horse to a tree or highline; a violation is causing resource damage while the stock is retained. To avoid damage to trees, use tree saver straps or padding to protect trees. Some stock users prefabricate their low-impact highlines to make setup easier.

Only dead and down wood may be used for picket pins and drag logs. Some users carry their own metal picket pins with them. Make sure your picket pins are pulled and not left in the meadow before you leave.

Do not leave your stock unaccompanied in camp for long periods of time.

Safety in Bear Country

Proper food and garbage storage is essential to minimize the possibility of encounters with bears.

  • All food, cooking utensils, food panniers, horse feed, garbage, and other smelly items must be properly stored at night and anytime when unattended. Proper storage is at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet away from tree trunks or in approved bear resistant panniers. Food storage poles or bear boxes are available at most campsites. If food poles are unavailable or broken, it is still the responsibility of the user to hang any bear attractants properly.
  • Nose bags or ground cloths are recommended for supplemental feed. Wasted feed can become a bear attractant.
  • Notify a park ranger immediately of any dead saddle or pack stock. Dead stock must be moved well away from any campsite, trail, or water.
  • Feeding, teasing, or otherwise molesting wildlife is a violation of park regulations.
  • Never approach a carcass. Riders should detour around carcasses and any bears they encounter, or turn around and return the way they came.
  • Report any carcasses, bear sightings, and activity to a park ranger, backcountry office, or visitor center.

Learn more about traveling safely in bear country.

 

Last updated: June 20, 2017

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Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168

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(307) 344-7381

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