8.03.2015

An Overlooked Gem: The Sky Rim Trail in Yellowstone


This year's Independence Day adventure was quite the contrast to last year's. Rather than skiing 1,600+ vertical feet of perfect summer snow, Mike and I spent three days hiking from Teepee Creek to Specimen Creek via the Sky Rim Trail. It was a glorious walk in some of Yellowstone National Park's most easily accessible high country.

Often times, the thought of going to Yellowstone in the summer can make me cringe. Between too many people, traffic jams for wildlife sightings, bad drivers, and the logistics of backpacking (Lengthy shuttles and the bureaucratic permitting process) it can be a real hassle. When America's first and possibly most iconic national park is in your backyard, you tend to take it for granted.

This trip was a good reminder that Yellowstone is indeed a gem. While many people from around the country and around the world go through great lengths to backpack in Yellowstone, for me it it right there and ready to be explored with relative ease.

Trip highlights included the high open terrain, which is always preferable to me over being stuck in the trees. Once you reach Teepee Pass, about three miles into the hike, you remain above treeline along the ridge for much of the trip. However, don't let this fool you. There are many ups and down along the way with several noticeable climbs. Overall, it was a much more challenging hike than we had anticipated.

Another highlight was the lack of crowds along the trail.We saw few people for the entire three days, which is great considering how close it is to Bozeman.

I'd highly recommend a walk along the Sky Rim trail. If you're curious to find out more, check out our stats for the trip:
    A peak along the Sky Rim Trail i Yellowstone National Park
    Approaching Big Horn Peak
  • People encountered:  day one = 0; day two = 2; day = 3 plus a surprisingly quite group of 10-15 high school students 
  • Elevation gain:  On paper, not too difficult. 3,400 feet from the Teepee trailhead to Big Horn Peak and 700 feet from Shelf Lake to Sheep Mountain. However, multiple ups and down along the trail add a lot more vertical to the trip. The big green hill pictured in the top photo was a lot longer and steeper than it looks. I've been told the total elevation gain is approximately 6,000 feet but I have yet to confirm this. 
  • Peaks summited:  two. One you can't avoid (Big Horn Peak) as it is right along the trail and another (Sheep Mountain) was a side trip.
  • Animal sitings: A few big horn sheet off in the distance and two mountain goats. Althought we didn't see too many critters, signs of wildlife were constant as foot prints and scat were everywhere. This included a bear that had repeatedly used the trail as his litter box.  While things appeared to be fresh, we never saw the bear.
Our camp at Shelf Lake
Fields on fire