Bridger Mountain Trails 

This post is going to be a bit of a mish-mash. There are a few hikes over the course of 2006-2009 that I didn’t complete, didn’t like, or don’t remember much about, so it would be difficult to write a full post about each one. Instead, I’m combining them all together here. Each one is located in the Bridger Mountains, a sub-range of the Rockies located immediately east of my hometown of Bozeman, Montana.

Hike #1: Sypes Canyon to the M
This wasn’t one of our best moments. My mom had done this hike many years ago; an 8 mile (12.9 km) trek through the Bridger Mountains from Sypes Canyon to the college M (which I talked about here) and back. It’s relatively flat – or so it appeared when we looked only at the net elevation gain – so it seemed like a good first hike of the season.

We couldn’t have been more wrong. The trail led up and over multiple ridgelines, dropping down into the drainages in between. On the way back, we tried to avoid some of the ups and downs by bushwhacking. Also a bad idea, because we then found ourselves climbing up something so steep that our motto was “fifty steps at a time.”

Fifty steps and then we could stop to catch our breath.

Overall, I’m sure this hike wasn’t that bad. But since it was our first hike of the season and we had the brilliant idea to go off-trail, it ended up being long and steep and exhausting. It’s been dubbed our least favorite hike of all time.

At least the views were nice

Hike #2: Ross Pass
When you look up at the Bridger Range, there are three major low spots. The southernmost is Bozeman Pass, which is where the interstate travels through. The northernmost is Flathead Pass, to which my mom and I once unsuccessfully tried to hike – more on that shortly. The middle one is Ross Pass, located between Saddle Peak and the jagged summit of Ross Peak.

Ross Pass

The trailhead for Ross Pass is located on South Fork Brackett Creek Road on the east side of the Bridger Mountains. Just drive 3.4 miles (5.5 km) to the parking area and keep heading up the road on foot. It was a 5 mile (8 km) round-trip hike from the parking area, and was only moderately steep.

From the summit, views extended west over the Gallatin Valley and east over the Shields Valley. Ross Peak also rises to the north; it’s one of the rockiest and most prominent peaks in the Bridger Range. I’d love to summit it – but that will have to wait until I can afford climbing gear, because I’m fairly certain it’s a technical ascent.

Ross Peak from Ross Pass

Hike #3: Corbly Gulch
The trailhead for Corbly Gulch is located on the west side of the Bridger Mountains at the end of Corbly Gulch Road. Corbly Gulch is located between Ross Peak and Sacagawea Peak; though it’s a much less common route (it’s longer and has a greater elevation gain), Sacagawea Peak can be summited from this trail.

The Corbly Gulch trail ascends approximately 3500 feet (1070 m) to the summit of Sacagawea, or about 2700 feet (820 m) to the saddle below the peak. We didn’t make it to either, as we started too late in the day. Nevertheless, we made it up above tree line to where the views opened up to the west. Since I’ve summited Sacagawea from the east side, this is a hike I’d like to complete one day.


Hike #4: Frazier and Ainger Lakes
Frazier and Ainger Lakes are located high in the Bridger Mountains, in the shadow of Hardscrabble Peak. The trail can be accessed from the end of US Forest Service Road #75 or from part way up Fairy Lake Road. I can’t remember which one we took, it’s been too long. I also can’t remember how long of a hike it was, but considering that my sister was no more than 12 or 13 at the time and we were carrying backpacking equipment, I don’t imagine it was more than 3-4 miles (5-7 km) each direction.

What I do remember is that the lakes were dry (it was late August), but the views were stellar. We were pretty far back into the mountains, so the rugged, rocky ridgelines were all around us. I also remember that Frazier Creek starts out as a rather sizeable spring. It bursts out of the rock below the Frazier Lake Basin and was our water source once we’d set up camp.


But perhaps the most memorable part of this trip was accidentally sitting beneath a bear while eating breakfast.

Yes, you read that right.

We plopped ourselves down on a log in the sunshine while we ate our oatmeal. As we were cleaning up a few minutes later, we heard a rustling in the bushes, and looked over just in time to catch a glimpse of a black bear as it climbed down out of the tree we’d just been sitting under.

The bear wasn’t at all interested in us, and went on its merry way. But it was a bit disconcerting. Suffice it to say that if we’d stayed another night, I probably wouldn’t have done a whole lot of sleeping.

Hike #5: Horse Mountain
I mentioned above that my mom and I were unsuccessful in our attempt to hike to Flathead Pass. Well, that’s because we headed up the road to the trailhead and found ourselves at Flathead Pass. With our car.

Turns out you don’t have to hike there.

But we were there, and we had our hiking gear with us, so we did some improvising. Rising 2000 feet (610 m) above Flathead Pass to the north is Horse Mountain. There wasn’t much of a trail, but we just made our own, weaving through fields of wildflowers and over the occasional rock outcrop. We figured as long as we kept heading up, we’d make it to the summit.


And we did.

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