Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
8,809.00 ft (2,684.98 m)
Trail type
Shuttle
Distance
42.00 mi (67.59 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Gallatin Crest Trail can be backpacked in either direction. The trail at Hyalite Creek Trailhead and Buffalo Horn Trailhead offer similar experiences and nearly the same amount of elevation gain. The route connects a few smaller routes to form one 42-mile trail that travels the length of the Gallatin Mountain Range. True to it name, the trail stays on the crest of the peaks offering scenic views, mountain goats, and wide-open vistas. The downfalls to these attributes are exposure to weather and lack of accessible shelter along most of the crest. 

Slightly more people begin at the Buffalo Horn Trailhead which is easily accessible off of Montana Highway 191. From Bozeman, and traveling south on 191, the trailhead is east of 320 Guest Ranch. After turning at the guest ranch a gravel road leads back into the Buffalo Horn Campground. A wooden sign marks the beginning of the trail. 

The trail begins and follows the Buffalo Horn Trail seven miles to Ramshorn Lake. It is a gradual but continual climb and the most likely section to contain substantial mud and rutted out single track due to the dirt bikes in the area. Ramshorn Lake is a good place to camp. The lake is nestled in a wall of rock that ascends vertically to the Gallatin Crest. 

From the lake, a short and steep climb passes some small pond and then joins the true heights of the Gallatin Mountains. Mountains goats and sheep can often be seen on the shoulder of the first unnamed pass. The trail is faint but visible as it carves a route connecting the vistas and peaks. A bearing is always easy to locate with open visibility, although this can be a hindrance in bad weather. The trail stays high with only one small seasonal creek in the bottom of a basin with an east-facing slope that holds snow late into the year. After the ponds around Ramshorn Lake, the next reliable source is a creek below Windy Pass Cabin (mile 21). This cabin can be reserved for an overnight stay through the Forest Service. 

Through much of the route loading up on water is essential. It is 10 miles from the cabin to the next water source, a creek just below Crater Lake (mile 31). Crater Lake is a puddle but nonetheless reliable throughout the year. It is a straight shot from the lake to Hyalite Peak. Goat trails dot the shoulder of the crux of the route, requiring special attention to gain the summit. Prayer flags and a post sticking out of a cairn mark the summit. From the top, the trail passes Hyalite Creek and largely follows the outflowing creek down to the trailhead. It is a straightforward descent to the Hyalite Creek Trailhead. Short detours can be followed to many of the waterfalls throughout this descent. 

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Days

3

Pros

Unique Landscape. Ridgetops. Wildlife.

Cons

Exposure to weather. Limited water. Steep.

Trailhead Elevation

6,621.00 ft (2,018.08 m)

Highest point

10,295.00 ft (3,137.92 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Wildlife
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Bird watching

Typically multi-day

Yes

Permit required

No

Location

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