Bear Creek Loop Trail
If you are up to the challenge, Bear Creek Loop Trail (325,326) offers access to the top of two of the Madison Valley’s most iconic peaks – Helmet and Sphinx. These are easy, non-technical hikes from a climbers point of view, but are long with lots of elevation and switchbacks. The views from the tops of these peaks are spectacular. From Sphinx you can see the madison Valley, Gravelly Range and Pioneer Mountains to the west. The Gallatin Valley and Absarokee Mountains are to the east. And on a real blue-sky day you can see clear to the Tetons! The hike starts low with a forested, fairly even terrain that criss-crosses Bear Creek before breaking out into sage meadows with views of the peaks ahead. If you are just out for a easy hike, stop in the meadow for a picnic and head back – a lovely jaunt. For the aggressive hiker, the best is yet to come. After breaking out into the meadow, take the left fork of the trail. You are now on Trail 326 which heads up the switchbacks to the saddle between Helmet and Sphinx. From here, you can continue the Sphinx mountain ascent or intersect with the Middle Fork trail back to Black Mountain and return to Bear Creek Station. As always when hiking the backcountry, make sure to have protection from sudden changes in weather and thunderstorms as well as basic supplies and a good map. The lower Bear Creek Trail is also a great winter adventure. Strap on your snowshoes or cross-country skis and enjoy the quiet of a snow-covered forest. Bears are sleeping and only the chirping of the birds or the occassional weasel or chipmunk will disturb the peace. The trail may already have been broken for you by a moose or elk. To find out more about local trails and uses, check out our Trip Idea “Adventuring in Backroad to Yellowstone country“.