Sky Rim Trail, Yellowstone, August 6, 2020


I lava it!!!
Jan 19, 2012
This is by far my favorite trail in the park. I had this trail for years on my radar and finally made it happen. The views on top of Sky Rim are superb and the entire 20-miles hike with roughly 5,000 feet of elevation gain going along the high ridges of Sky Rim offered an experience I haven't had before in the park. Unfortunately, I had to skip Bighorn Peak as a storm was moving in fast and I wanted to be off the high ridge before it was hitting. It was a good call, the lightning was crazy. That means I need to go back and finish going up to Bighorn Peak next time.
Nonetheless, I had a lot of fun as I worked my way up and did not see a single person.


I started at Daly Creek trailhead later than expected because the road construction along 191 took longer than I thought it would. The primitive parking area already had several cars parked but I found enough parking for my car and got my gear ready. My backpack was heavier than normal because of all the water I carried today. There was no water along Sky Rim and I had to carry everything with me.
Around 9 am I was ready to start and left the trailhead.


Crown Butte dominated the scene for the first 2 miles and the trail followed an area covered in sagebrush and grasses. Soon after the start I crossed Daly Creek and continued on.
It was pretty cloudy today but it helped to keep the temperatures low. I've also chosen a good day to hike and the chance of afternoon thunderstorms was only 15%.


Daly Creek


the first trail junction after 1.8 miles

After leaving Daly Creek and the last spot to filter water, the trail started to climb up to the Sky Rim. Open meadows and patches of forests alternated several times and I worked my way up, huffing and puffing, and enjoying the wildflower display. So far it was not bad and the elevation gain was gradual.


Eventually, I reached the Sky Rim and stopped for a short break. The trail up was a bit of a leg burner, but totally doable with great scenery along the way.



the trail follows some flower meadows along the rim


traveling along an arete I follow Sky Rim on a more mellow section



The trail section along the rim was really nice, there were up and downs all the time and the trail followed an arete carved by glaciers. The views to both sides were superb and I needed to stop all the time. I'm not sure what it is but I'm a huge fan of expansive mountain scenes. I often feel so small when I'm immersed in it and pictures just can't do justice.


working my way up


still going up

Between layers of lava tuff, I found many specimens of Petrified Wood. I knew there was a Petrified Forest on the other side of the ridge in Yankee Jim Canyon but did not know it was up here as well. Definitely a pretty cool surprise.


Petrified Wood

I encountered more Park boundary signs and the trail marker to some trails in the National Forest. Well, I guess one of these days I'll hike up here from the National Forest. There are tons of options all over the place and I made some mental notes for future references and trips.


Park Boundary

The wildflower galore up here was just amazing. I thought I was way too late but got a pleasant surprise up here in the higher elevations.


And then the first real views of the surrounding area - just wow!! Even the storm that was brewing in the distance couldn't take away all the wow moments I experienced right now.


It can't get any better


the view looking toward Ramshorn Peak, Twin Peaks, Steamboat Mountain


there were a lot of these markers along the Rim


someone was watching me, I'm glad it wasn't a bear


looking back into Yankee Jim Canyon and the backside of Paradise Valley


the trail is zigzagging up that ridge which means I have to zigzag my way up there soon

There were lots of ups and downs and the trail kept zigzagging up and down some ridges. It definitely was a leg burner and I could feel it, but the views excused all the work I had to do.


a storm developed in the distance


I made it up the ridge and enjoyed the views back


I found more Petrified Wood


Mountain Galore wherever you look



short break



I just crossed that big meadow a bit earlier

Eventually, the trail became a bit faint when I had to climb up a steep meadow and it was hard to follow. There were some wooden stakes but many of them were damaged from recent winter snow. It took a little bit to find the proper trail but finally, I was up on the ridge again and could see Bighorn Peak ahead of me.
Unfortunately, a massive storm was moving in pretty fast and I was drawn back and forth. I really wanted to climb Bighorn Peak to the top but that would mean an additional 20-25 minute climb and be fully exposed high on the ridge.


Selfie on the ridge with the storm moving in fast

I did not want to get caught up in this storm. I already felt the electricity building up and smelled ozone. This was not a place to be during a lightning storm. So I made the decision to skip Bighorn Peak. I was so close!!


Bighorn Peak right in the foreground


Bighorn Peak

well, there is always another time. I rushed down the mountain and was glad to be back in the timberline when the storm started to hit.


It hailed and rained, thunder clapped and lightning came down all at the same time. I was glad when I reached the Daly Creek Patrol Cabin and sat out the storm on its front porch. In the end, I was glad I decided against Bighorn Peak because the storm would have hit me on top in full force.


Daly Creek Patrol Cabin


I was still happy I did the hike. It took me about 9 hours and 20 miles to finish. What a great adventure. I did not see a single bear even though this area is known to have a good population f them. I guess I'm just too loud, lol.
Hopefully, next time I'll be able to climb Bighorn Peak as well.
That looks like a great hike. It is one I will have to add to our list of Yellowstone day hikes.
Really great report and photos! the flowers, mountains, clouds...
A good reminder that summer is coming.
That looks like a great hike. It is one I will have to add to our list of Yellowstone day hikes.
you would love it if you don't mind the 5,000 ft. elevation gain in 20 miles

W O W’s good nuff ta say it backwards...W O W ! Whatta hike...when was this?
this was last year on August 6, still monsoon season so I had to move the day of my hike almost every day until it finally happened

I can't tell you how much respect I have for your abilities and photography. <insert fearless emoji>
Well, I just took quick shots along the trail, nothing special.
And back then, before I had my knee injury, I could easily hike 20 + miles as a day hike without any issues.
Nowadays I'm happy when I get 10 miles, lol

Really great report and photos! the flowers, mountains, clouds...
A good reminder that summer is coming.
it's coming soon. I already plan my next Yellowstone adventure end of summer/early fall. I can't wait for the mountains again
Gorgeous! Great photos! I was wanting to do that trail for a long time, a few years ago, but had forgotten about if for some reason. Thanks for posting, this has to go back to the top of my list for this summer! :thumbsup:
Great TR, @Yvonne I just received my permit to backpack this in July and continuing to Sportsman's Lake. I haven't been on this trail in 30 years so good to see the, as always, excellent photos.

BTW, the Gallatin Petrified Forest runs through that entire area. According to the topos, from east of the Big Sky turnoff south to at least Specimen Creek.
Great TR, @Yvonne I just received my permit to backpack this in July and continuing to Sportsman's Lake. I haven't been on this trail in 30 years so good to see the, as always, excellent photos.

BTW, the Gallatin Petrified Forest runs through that entire area. According to the topos, from east of the Big Sky turnoff south to at least Specimen Creek.

I was wondering who stole the campsites for my trip in July! :D Have a great trip.
We did a similar trip a couple of years ago. We started at Daily Creek and ended at Bunsen Peak TH. Some of the best views in the park. Thanks for sharing.
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