For hundreds of years, hiking with llamas, or llama trekking, has been commonplace in the Andes mountains.
But in the past 50 years or so, the hiking excursions have become commonplace outside of South America, most notably in the American wilderness. In Wyoming, llama trekking through the heart of the amazing backcountry has become a go-to getaway for those looking for the thrill of hiking the wilderness, but without the heavy lifting of carrying a pack filled with supplies for four or five days.
Here's everything to know about llama trekking in Wyoming.
Essentially, llama trekking is a multi-day hike where you don't have to carry all the equipment because a llama is carrying it for you. With the llama carrying all your heavy stuff, you can hike with only a light day pack. You can camp along rivers and lakes that take a day or two of hiking to get to, without having to carry your camping equipment.
The llama walks beside you. Fairly docile and friendly, they are much easier to deal with than mules or other pack animals, and their padded hooves make it easier for them to traverse the mountainous terrain of the wilderness.
Llama trekking in Wyoming can take you everywhere from Yellowstone National Park to Wind River to the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole. Whether it's just hiking the mountains, or setting out for a fly fishing adventure, there are plenty of options to choose from.
For instance, Wildland Trekking's Turquoise Lake Llama Trek starts at the Gros Ventre Mountain Range just outside of Jackson Hole. You'll hike off-trail through the wilderness and camp alongside mountain lakes and streams. At night, you'll sleep under the stars, far away from city lights, providing you with some of the most vivid night skies around. During the day, you'll have a chance to see moose and elk and bears, while enjoying the solitude of being away from the work-a-day world. And in the end, you'll finish your trip with a soak in Granite Hot Springs, a natural healing hot spring and pool located in Hoback Canyon.
In Yellowstone, you have a variety of options for llama trekking, including fly fishing adventures that will take you deep into Yellowstone National Park to fish on crystal clean lakes. The llamas carry in the heavy fishing equipment like waders and rafts, while you enjoy guided treks to the best fishing spots, safety against bears, and some of the best backcountry meals you can find. Other trips include hikes into the wild, like the Heart Lake trek, a six day excursion to Heart Lake and up to the top of Mount Sheridan with a stop at some hot springs and a boiling river along the way.
Some companies will schedule your days for you with activities and timing already set. Others are more relaxed and let you move and explore at your own pace. Be sure to check with your trekking company about how rigid the schedule is and whether or not you will have time to sleep in if you want, or if you'll be getting up with the reveille.
Keep in mind that llama treks are all-inclusive. Not only are you getting a four-day adventure, but all your meals, lodging (as it were), guides, gear, equipment, and llamas. Prices for llama treks range from $900 to more than $4,000, but most land in the middle at four days for around $1,800. Pricing also varies per season, with summer being more expensive due to demand. While some trips include fishing permits, others require that you purchase fishing permits from Native American tribes if you want to fish.
If you go, remember, you're out in the middle of nowhere hiking. Wear layers and pack for different kinds of weather. Weather changes as you ascend mountains and showers can come up suddenly. If you're prepared for them, you can ensure a little storm won't ruin your whole trek. Bring a rain poncho, pack a sweater, dress in non-cotton clothing, and make sure you have extra socks.
Also, make sure you're wearing closed-toe shoes -- no flip-flops or sandals. Being prepared also means packing plenty of batteries for your camera, and a portable power pack for your phone. There are no charging stations in the backcountry. It would be a waste to get all the way to the top of a gorgeous mountain, or the shores of a pristine lake only to not be able to take a picture because your battery is at 1%.
And lastly, make sure you have a few first aid supplies. While most hiking companies will come prepared, it doesn't hurt to bring bandages for blisters, ointment for poison ivy, and antiseptic for bug bites. You're out in the wilderness after all.