Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
2,280.00 ft (694.94 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
9.40 mi (15.13 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.

La Duke is an often overlooked trail just north of Yellowstone National Park, which boasts some of the best views around in just the first few miles of trail and a great chance of wildlife sightings like deer, elk, and big horn sheep.

The trailhead is across the Yellowstone River from several prominent features including Sepulcher Mountain and Electric Peak inside Yellowstone and also the Devil’s Slide. Those who have driven through Yellowstone’s north entrance will likely recall the Devil’s Slide, a strange geologic feature that resembles a rusty red slide, a chute between two rocky ridges. The highly contrasted layers were actually formed horizontally before they were lifted and tilted; the striking red band is a tidal flat deposit from a time when this part of Montana was an inland sea. After the sea receded, magma flowed across this area to form the slide’s left side. The harder deposit forming the slide’s right side is sandstone, which is older than the tidal flat deposit but more erosion resistant. The rocks you are about to climb on La Duke are much of the same stuff – volcanic rock, sandstone, and plenty of shale (especially near the top).

The hike has long, well-graded switchbacks up the open mountainside for the first few miles. Abundant on the slopes are juniper, small and warped pines, sagebrush, and small cacti. Several overlook points are perfect for taking a quick break or pictures of Electric Peak, the tallest mountain in the Gallatin Range.

Continue winding up the slope and eventually into your first patch of shade. The trail cuts through this forested notch in the ridge before dropping down to a tall grassy meadow beside Bassett Creek. The waters of Bassett Creek run from just below Sheep Mountain (10,547 feet) down to the small town of Corwin Springs.

With numerous game trails, it can be hard to find the official trail after you reach the meadow. The trail actually crosses the creek in a thick stand of aspens. You should be able to catch sight of the trail on the other side through the trees. After crossing Bassett Creek, continue eastward on the northern side of the creek. With few trees along the trail here, the view of the Bassett Creek drainage is fantastic. A quick turn-around will give you a valley-framed view of Electric Peak, which seems larger than ever. The drainage feels remote and wild, which is amazing given the proximity of La Duke to Yellowstone National Park.  

The trail becomes calf-burning steep as you start the final ascent from Bassett Creek to the ridgeline. Having trekking poles here is a help because the footing is dry, loose, and rocky. It does not help that the trail essentially disintegrates the higher you go up. A trained eye will be able to spot the semi-worn path others have taken in their scramble up. You’ll know that you’ve taken the best route if you happen to pass an old forest boundary sign nailed into a tree just as you’re entering the sagebrush meadow on the ridgeline. Be sure to note this location as it will prove helpful for your venture back down.

From the meadow, you're able to view Cinnabar Basin to the northwest, the Yellowstone River to Yankee Jim Canyon to the north, and Sheep Mountain to the south.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Great shoulder season hike. Solitude. Excellent views of Electric Peak.

Cons

Trail is hard to find during final ascent.

Trailhead Elevation

5,145.00 ft (1,568.20 m)

Highest point

7,425.00 ft (2,263.14 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Geologically significant
Big vistas
Wildlife
Big Game Watching
Horseback riding

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Horseback

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

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