Welcome to the Trail Well Traveled!
Each Friday, in partnership with Montana Wilderness Association we will feature a new western Montana trail and then give you some helpful details and tips to get on your way!
This week, we feature a trail that allows hikers to enjoy all the splendor of Yellowstone National Park – but without all the crowds.
A trail steep in places, but with amazing views of three majestic mountain ranges and lots of great chances to spot wildlife along the way – elk, bighorn sheep, even grizzlies – the hike to Ramshorn Peak is well worth the climb.
Roundtrip: 8.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,200 feet
Directions: From Missoula, take Interstate 90 east to Livingston and then south on US 89 towards Gardiner and the entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
After 36.4 miles, you’ll see the sign for Tom Miner. Turn right here, drive over the Yellowstone River, and then turn left on Old Yellowstone Road. After .6 miles, turn left again – staying on the road, veering right at the fork and then eventually, less than a quarter-mile later, turning right onto Tom Miner Road.
Stay on this road as it winds through beautiful meadows; after 14 miles, it ends at a campground. Park by the fence for day hiking.
What to expect: Go through the gate at the trailhead and through meadows and aspen groves, staying left where the trail forks at .3 miles. There are easy stream crossings – the first at .7 miles.
After 2.4 miles of hiking through alpine forests, rock outcrops, meadows and streams, you’ll reach Buffalo Horn Pass and a clearing with a trail sign. Watch as you walk for signs and sightings of the wildlife of all sizes that is plentiful here, close to Yellowstone Park
At the pass, there are a few options:
1. Turn left onto Tom Miner Divide Trail #296 and trek to the Yellowstone National Park boundary (about 2 miles);
2. Follow the trail straight to continue on to Highway 191 ahead (about 6 miles); or
3. Continue on to Ramshorn Peak, departing Buffalo Horn Pass Trail #120 to the right at the split just before the clearing.
Within .1 miles, the trail splits again – the left heading to Ramshorn Lake, which offers plenty of fishing and campsites, the right continuing on to the peak.
Continue up the ridge and through whitebark pines trying to hang on – and through lots of petrified wood. Enjoy views of the southern Spanish Peaks as you walk. The trail gets steeper and, in teh last quarter-mile, transforms into several braided game trails. Just pick one and you’ll find yourself at the summit – about 2 miles total from the pass.
The summit is a great turnaround spot, or if you’re comfortable going off-trail there are lots of ways to extend your hike in the area.
From the summit of Ramshorn Peak, look south to Yellowstone and then turn 180 degrees to see the proposed Yellowstone to Yukon wildlife corridor.
Tip: Be on the lookout for grizzly bear – and petrified trees – throughout the area. Also watch for marmots on the approach to the summit, as well as mountain goats and bighorn sheep on the cliffs of Fortress Mountain to the northwest.
Learn more about this trail, file your own trip report and photos, or check out some other great hikes at hikewildmontana.org. And don’t forget to tune in to the Trail 103.3 each Friday at 9:45 am for the next featured trail and your chance to win!
Big thanks to Rangitsch Bros RV for sponsoring the Trail Well Traveled. Proudly serving Missoula for over 56 years, whatever camper best suits your needs Rangitsch Bros has got it!