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

Rate this Adventure

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.

Read More


Mountain Biking


Have you done this adventure? Be the first to leave a review!

Stay Nearby

Big Sky, Montana

Windy Pass Cabin

Overview Windy Pass Cabin was built in 1934. It provides a rustic mountain retreat with few amenities, so guests need to bring most of their own supplies and gear to make their experience comfortab...

Gallatin Gateway, Montana

Wapiti Cabin

Overview Wapiti Cabin is a primitive, rustic, log structure open year-round for recreational enjoyment. It provides access to several trails for summer hiking and biking, and winter skiing and snow...

Gallatin Gateway, Montana

Garnet Mountain Fire Lookout

Overview Garnet Mountain Fire Lookout sits on the apex of Garnet Mountain, at an elevation of 8,245 feet. The lookout provides a panoramic view of the surrounding peaks and valleys. Highlights incl...

Madison County, Montana

Bear Creek Cabin

Overview The Bear Creek Cabin allows visitors to experience southwestern Montana's vast wilderness areas, including wide open fields and a variety of nearby mountain ranges. Situated on the Trail F...

Nearby Adventures

  • Short Hike to Ousel Falls

    The trailhead is easy to find, and has a vault toilet and a decently sized parking lot. The trail leaves from right next to the toilets, and is very easy to follow. Follow a couple easy switchbacks down the hillside, cross the memorial bridge and ...

    1.6 miles 250 ft gain

  • Hike to Golden Trout Lakes

    The Golden Trout lakes offer a scenic getaway just out of the Gallatin Valley Canyon. To access the trail head, turn east onto Portal Creek Road #984 and continue southeast for 6.8 miles. The road is in rough condition and is better suited for veh...

    5 miles 1300 ft gain

  • Backpack the Gallatin Crest Trail

    There are some different options for starting and ending this hike, but the route I did started at Buffalo Horn Trailhead and ends at the Hyalite Creek Trailhead, and is approximately 42 miles total. I did the trail over the course of three and a ...

    42 miles 6000 ft gain

  • Run the Rut

    Thunderdome. That's the only way to describe it. Eight months later and I'm still thinking about it on a regular basis. My half-way grown out black toenail is a constant reminder of the epic-ness of that brutal race day.  The Rut is held the first...

    17.4 miles 7800 ft gain