Sky Rim Trail
ElevationAscent: 3,386' 1,032 m
Descent: -1,680' -512 m
High: 10,041' 3,060 m
Low: 8,181' 2,493 m
GradeAvg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 43% (23°)
Current trail conditions
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“The Sky Rim - perhaps Yellowstone’s best high mountain trail - is like hiking across the sky!”— Tom Carter
The first mile to Dailey Pass follows a swath cut through the trees marking the park boundary. Look for interesting YNP boundary markers carved into trees along the way. Dailey Pass is a major 4-way backcountry intersection. A right turn is Yellowstone’s Dailey Creek Trail, which drops 1600 feet in 5 miles to highway US 191. A left turn is the NFS Dailey Pass Trail NFS #57. The Sky Rim Trail continues straight along the ridge and climbs 600 feet and takes a right turn at a junction with the Tom Minor Divide Trail at 1.7 miles. From there, the views in every direction are spectacular, and they stay that way for miles and miles.
As you head SE along the flower-spangled ridge, look to the horizon on the east for the rounded mountain with the huge metal structure on top – that’s Sheep Mountain, the end of the Sky Rim! Beginning around 2 miles, look for short side trails to the right that lead to nice views and a chance to see fossilized trees (part of the Gallatin Petrified Forest).
The trail rolls up and down (mostly up) and has three big hills to climb (beginning at 2.9, 4.3, & 5.8 miles) on the way to Big Horn Peak. Just after the second climb, the trail levels and disappears into a big meadow. Continue south and watch for trail markers on the far side of the meadow. The trail also is hard to find as you steeply climb the third hill; just keep climbing and you’ll find it.
At 6.4 miles (the top of the third hill), the Black Butte Trail junction is passed. The next .3 miles of the Sky Rim to Big Horn Peak (9930') is the real crux of the trail. Here the trail winds through a rocky section with precipitous drop-offs and awesome views. There is no more spectacular scenery anywhere in Yellowstone!
From Big Horn Peak, the trail continues along the ridge dropping 600 feet in the next 3 miles and passing the Specimen Creek Trail (just above Shelf Lake). The final mile of the Sky Rim Trail climbs 780 feet along the ridge to the top of Sheep Mountain (10095'). The huge metal communication screen on top is called a “microflector.”
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day
You may also see mountain goats. Though not native to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, these fascinating animals were introduced in southwest Montana in the 1940s and have migrated into the park.
Local Club: Yellowstone Forever
May 31, 2019: Yellowstone Hiking 101
Land Manager: National Park Service - Yellowstone National Park