Big Sky to Hyalite Peak: 35 Miles Along The Devil's Backbone

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Added by Patrick Rooney

360 degree view including the Bridgers, Big Sky, Yellowstone, and Absaroka-Beartooths15 miles to 50 milesSolitudePrime Mountain Goat territory

The most difficult aspect of the Gallatin Crest/Devil's Backbone is deciding where to begin your journey. Some choose to start at the Hyalite Creek trailhead and hike the full 50 miles into Yellowstone. Others begin the hike at a number of trailheads in both the Paradise Valley (East) or the Gallatin Canyon (West/more popular), ultimately finishing in Hyalite. Regardless of how one chooses to start this epic hike, you will not be disappointed.

Our group began at the Porcupine Creek Trail about 2.5 miles south of the Big Sky turn off on Highway 191. Although many choose the Buffalo Horn Trail because of it's shorter approach(~5 miles), Porcupine Creek offers a terrific quantity of wildflowers and prime wildlife habitat. This being said, bear spray is recommended, as well as group travel.

After approximately nine miles you will reach the Gallatin Crest Trail and ridgeline. From there, begin trekking North/NE towards Hyalite Peak. Although our group accomplished the hike in less than 20 hours, this method is not necessarily recommended. Because of human error, we were forced to build a fire for warmth at two in the morning roughly 25 miles into the hike. Needless to say it was a sleepless few hours until the sun began to rise.

Lesson #1: Double check third party information

Lesson#2: Don't begin hiking at noon

Short of poor prior planning, this hike is incredibly straightforward. Most of the trails connected to the Devil's Backbone are well signed making navigation easy. Certain sections of the trail are less traveled resulting in risky night travel. Be sure to set up camp well before dusk, and if at all possible off of the ridgeline.

Whether choosing a multiple day adventure or a wicked single day jaunt, it is incredibly important to bring water (3+liters) and a filter (just in case). Both Hyalite Creek and Porcupine Creek offer ample fill up opportunities. The ~17 miles along the ridge, however, offers only the occasional snow patch (aka dogs are not recommended). Unlike many ridgeline hikes, this trail offers the ability to turn off every few miles in a worse case situation.

Once on top of the ridgeline, the trail meanders in a mellow fashion all the way to Hyalite Peak. Making a point to visit this peak prior to hiking the Crest Trail can be incredibly beneficial to those who are unfamiliar with the area or who prefer to err on the safe side. Along the way down from Hyalite Peak to the Hyalite Creek trailhead exist dozens of waterfalls, resulting in some refreshing water frolicking and photo opportunities.

Officially one of my favorite hikes, this trail is a must for any outdoor enthusiast.

Bring your camera, best of friends, and an appetite for adventure.

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Tags

Mountain Biking
Running
Backpacking
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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