Sky Rim West

Yellowstone National Park

A classic Yellowstone ridgeline loop with tough climbs and epic views.

Hiking Severe

Distance
30 km
Ascent
1.5 km
Descent
1.5 km
Duration
7-8 hrs
Low Point
2.1 km
High Point
3 km
Gradient
18˚
VIEW ON MAP
Sky Rim West Map

Description

A very challenging 20-mile loop in Yellowstone’s far northwest corner. The first and last six or so miles take you through gentle meadows and forest, whereas the middle chunk of the route is a dramatic 7-mile rocky ridge traverse between Dailey Pass and the mighty 9,888 ft Big Horn Peak, which you have the opportunity to summit. This is a highly exposed, challenging hike. Definitely not for the faint-hearted!

Directions:

Begin from the Daly Creek Trailhead, just outside of West Yellowstone. You will follow Daily Creek for the first few miles, through grassy meadows, and around to the left of Crown Butte, ascending roughly 1,000 ft until you hit the forest at the 3-mile mark. Make your way through the forest for a couple of miles, climbing another 1,000 feet until you hit Dailey Pass, a 4-way intersection of backcountry paths. Follow the signs for Sky Rim Trail from Dailey Pass for less than a mile, until you come to a two-way Sky Rim junction. Take the path bearing right, signed The Yellowstone Sky Rim Trail. The trail ascends another 600-feet across a narrow ridge until you hit a junction with the Tom Minor Divide Trail. Although it’s hard to tear your eyes away from the magnificent scenery at this point in the hike, you need to keep an eye on the path underfoot as it becomes poorly marked and even completely disappears at points! The ridgeline path oscillates through a series of 400-ft steep peaks and troughs, escalating to a 500ft climb at the end. Save your energy for this last burst, as not only is it steep, but it’s easy to slip because the path breaks down into rubbly fragments of rock.

The strenuous climb is made all worthwhile when you take a moment to look around. From the ridgeline, you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views of the magnificent Gallatin Range, as well as the Absarokas, and the Madison Range.

From the end of the ridge, either stop at the grassy meadow or take the final challenge of climbing up to the summit of Big Horn Peak. From the summit, you can look back proudly on the whole of the ridgeline which you just traversed, and also spot Sheep Mountain in the distance, the highest peak in this corner of Yellowstone. From the summit, go back the way you came until you hit the trailhead with Black Butte Trail in the meadow below Big Horn Peak. Turn left, keeping the cliffs on the left of you as you descend along the Black Butte Trail until you reach the Black Butte- Dailey Creek Cutoff Trail at around the 15-mile mark. Turn right onto the Cutoff Trail, ascending gradually until it hits the Dailey Patrol Cabin, marking the highest point of this section of the route. From the cabin, follow the path as it drops down 700-feet over a couple of miles, and rejoins the Dailey Creek Trail, which you will remember from the beginning of the route. Turn left down the Dailey Creek trail, and follow the path for 2-miles until you are back at the Dailey Creek trailhead.

Tips:

After you leave the Dailey Creek meadows, there will be no water available until mile 16 or so of the hike.

If you want to go at a leisurely pace and extend the trip over 2 days, camping at Shelf Lake is a great option. To reach the campsite take the Gallatin Skyline Trail for 3 miles from the summit of Big Horn Peak.

Sources:

https://www.10adventures.com/hikes/yellowstone/sky-rim-hike/ https://www.hikingproject.com/trail/7017145/sky-rim-west https://rootsrated.com/jackson-hole-wy/hiking/sky-rim-trail-big-horn-peak

Difficulty

Severe

Hiking challenging trails where simple scrambling, with the occasional use of the hands, is a distinct possibility. The trails are often filled with all manner of obstacles both small and large, and the hills are very steep. Obstacles and challenges are often unexpected and can be unpredictable.

High Exposure

3 out of 4

Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October

Features

  • Alpine
  • Wildlife
  • Picturesque

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Guidebooks in this area