Sheepeater Ski Trail is the first leg of one of the best cross-country ski trips in Yellowstone. A Skier Shuttle is available from Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel
to Indian Creek Campground on a prearranged basis. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the front desk in the hotel lobby. Skiers make the 9.5-mile one-way return trip from Indian Creek Campground following the Sheepeater Ski Trail (3.8 miles) to the Bunsen Peak Road Trail
(4.6 miles) to the YCC Trail
(1.1 miles) to Mammoth. This first leg of the trip is easy; however, the Bunsen Road leg is much more challenging, with steep, winding sections and curves with steep drop-offs that are hazardous when icy.
The shuttle drops skiers off near Indian Creek Campground (closed in winter). From there, they follow the plowed highway back north .6 miles to a right turnoff toward Sheepeater Cliff Picnic Area. The trail continues along the Gardner River for .3 miles to the picnic area at the base of Sheepeater Cliff. In 1879 Park Superintendent Philestus W. Norris named this cliff, which extends several miles downstream, in honor of the Sheepeater Indians, who once inhabited the area. The Sheepeaters (or "Tukuarika" as they called themselves) were a subgroup of the Shoshone Nation. Groups within the Shoshone received subnames according to their economic base. These names included the "Root-diggers," "Salmon-eaters," and "Sheep-eaters." As their name suggests, the Sheepeaters depended primarily on the bighorn sheep for food and clothing. Although their weapons were primitive, their hunting methods were quite accomplished. Using paths bordered by brush fences, they drove animals into a cliff or canyon where others lay waiting in ambush.
From the picnic area, the ski trail leaves the river, climbs above the cliff, and continues through broken meadows with nice views of the Gallatin Range to the west. At the 3.1-mile mark, the trail rejoins the Gardner River drainage visible on the right. The trail ends at the 3.8-mile mark as it joins the Bunsen Peak Road Trail
. From here, to the right, it’s another 5.7 miles to Mammoth Hot Springs.
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone