This morning we got up extra early and headed out for what was to be our only mountain climb of the trip, Bighorn Peak. This mountain is located in the northwestern corner of the park in the Gallatin Range. The hike is 12.8 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 3200 feet to 9930 feet above sea level. We chose this mountain both for it’s views at the top and the fact that it’s on a very lightly used trail that begins outside the park.
To get to the trailhead we had to drive out the west entrance of the park and head north out of West Yellowstone for about 25 miles to the Black Butte trailhead. As yesterday, fog was the story of the morning so there were no pics to be had during the first half of the climb. Eventually we rose above the fog and the views started to come.
Nearing the top we found some petrified wood. This looks like wood, but it was hard as a rock. It had probably been here since the last eruption some 600,000 years ago.
We saw nobody until we were almost to the top. Once you get to about 9000 feet you break out of the trees and climb a long alpine meadow to the last section of the trail. In that meadow we ran into a younger couple who were out for their morning jog. They were just finishing up the Skyline Trail which includes Bighorn Peak but also adds on a loop to another section of trail that follows a ridge for an additional 8 miles. This is a well known route in hiking circles and many consider it a bucket list hike. I’d like to go back and do it someday.
At the top of the meadow you begin the most exciting part of the hike:
It looks more difficult than it was, but if you’re afraid of heights I could see it being scary. The trail follows a cliff the entire way and a slip could prove quite dangerous so don’t slip!
Some views from the top:
On the way back down we took some photos of some interesting rock formations. These are held together by what looks like cement but I believe is actually compacted volcanic ash from the last eruption. Because the ash is softer than the rock embedded in it, it erodes at a faster rate and make some interesting formations.
We named this one Alien Rock:
This trail also offered some of the best wildflowers of the trip:
Of the entire trip, this was probably my favorite day hike. We saw only three couples all day, the hike was a great workout and the views were amazing. I would love to hike this one again someday but do the whole Sky Rim route instead of just the single peak. The hike was tough, but most things worth doing usually are.