Hiking Ramshorn Peak In Montana’s Gallatin Range From The 320 Guest Ranch
Location: Ramshorn Peak, Gallatin Range, Montana
Rating: Grade II Class 1
Trailhead: Buffalo Horn Trailhead (6,650′)
Distance: 16 miles
Time: 5 to 8 hours
Elevation Ramshorn Peak: 10,296′ | 3138 meters
Total Vertical: 3,900′ | 1,188 meters
Maps: Ramshorn Peak, Lone Indian Peak, Sunshine Point
Sitting at 10,296 feet, Ramshorn Peak is not the highest peak around. Yet, it still dominates the skyline of the Gallatin Range as it is the highest peak between Hyalite Peak and Electric Peak – a distance of over 25 miles. Ramshorn Peak is highly visible from Big Sky Resort and the surrounding area due to it’s location. It beckons to be summited.
Located in the middle of Montana’s Gallatin Range in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, Ramshorn Peak is a popular hike due to the expansive views of the sweeping landscape of SW Montana. The views of the Madison Range, the Absaroka Range, Yellowstone, and Big Sky are stunning and hiking to the top of Ramshorn Peak is well worth the effort.
As a peak I see almost daily, I’ve wanted to summit Ramshorn Peak for a long time. On a hazy Saturday in August, I got my opportunity for a solo mission to hike Ramshorn Peak.
According to Turiano’s Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone, the easiest approach to Ramshorn Peak is from the Paradise Valley. Start at the Tom Miner Trailhead at 7100 feet, climb up trail 120, the Buffalo Horn Pass Trail, for 2.2 miles to Buffalo Horn Pass. Then follow the ridge line for an additional 1.5 miles to the summit of Ramshorn Peak. It’s a quick and easy day hike that covers 3200 feet and about 7.5 miles. Fun, easy, and straightforward.
Of course, I opted for a slightly different adventure. I started from the 320 Guest Ranch located on the Gallatin River and approached from the west. The 320 Ranch is located 12 miles south of the Big Sky turn off on Highway 191. Behind the 320 Ranch is the Buffalo Horn Trailhead. To access this trailhead, turn into the 320 Ranch. Drive left past the dining facilities and continue left and up the drainage. You will pass several guest cabins and eventually park at a loop in the road at the Upper Buffalo Horn Trailhead at about 6650 feet.
The Buffalo Horn Trail, trail #1, follows Buffalo Horn Creek toward Ramshorn Peak. There are several trail splits and I was glad to have my Beartooth Publishing Big Sky Area Map to help me stay on the right track.
The trail meanders through meadows filled with tall grass and pine forests. After last week’s rain/snow storm the dirt path is riddled with horse prints and dirt bike tracks, but this is what you’d expect from a trail that is located behind a dude ranch. I made good time up the mellow trail accompanied only by my own hoots and hollers hoping they would keep me safe in grizzly country.
At 7,500′, I made one slight wrong turn. I’d highly suggest watching your altimeter watch to ensure you say on trail 1 to Buffalo Horn Pass and not on trail 160 to Ramshorn Lake. The Ramshorn Lake trail is well trodden, while the Buffalo Horn Pass trail sees little use and is completely overgrown. My route-finding mistake added about a half hour and just over a mile distance on to my adventure. Luckily, my highly accurate Topo Maps app helped me get back on track.
After this turn off there isn’t much water to be found. Wading through chest high grass, walking through countless spiderwebs, and having a stare down competition with a deer in the summer sun, will make you thirsty. Eventually I reached Buffalo Horn Pass at an elevation of 8525 feet. Six miles into my adventure, it was nice to reach the ridge.
If you continue over the pass you will reach the Tom Miner Trailhead (the easy way to climb Ramshorn Peak) and the Paradise Valley. Two miles to the south is the Yellowstone National Park Boundary. And 1.5 miles and 1750 feet to the north is the summit of Ramshorn Peak.
The trail wanders through wildflower filled meadows and tracks through the Gallatin Petrified Forest which contains 50 million year old trees. It’s very cool. It basically follows along the southwest ridge line and becomes quite steep before petering out about 100 feet shy of the summit. An easy scramble later and you’re standing on top of Ramshorn Peak.
After 3.5 hours and 3700 feet I reached the summit of Ramshorn Peak at 10296 feet. No technical skill is necessary to reach Ramshorn Peak. It’s all just simple hiking, although a hiking pole is a nice thing to bring along for the final steep approach/descent. There’s potential for some fun skiing back here! Is it winter yet?
The views were outstanding and the buzzing of flies, butterflies, and mosquitos was tolerable. You can see mountains in every direction. The Taylor Hilgards, Sphinx Mountain, Lone Mountain, the Spanish Peaks, Big Sky, the Gallatin Range, the Sentinel, Mount Cowen, Electric Peak, Sheep Mountain, Fortress Mountain, and other peaks were etched into the hazy skyline of Southwest Montana. Clear cell service at the peak allowed me to check in before I scurried back down the trail.
The route home was the same as the route there, so I knew what to expect. I made good time back to the trailhead. I continued making bear calls, saw a couple of other hikers, hopped over lots of fresh bear and horse poop, and dodged a crew of eager dirt bikers – pretty much your average day in the Gallatin National Forest.
Car to car (including my route finding adventure) I covered 17 miles and 3925 feet in 6.5 hours. I was happy to slip on my flip flops and drink some water at the trailhead. Due to an improper footwear choice, I now have a couple of large blisters that will take a few days to heal.
I’ll be back out soon. Can’t wait.
View Route On HillMap:
Here are some additional images from hiking Ramshorn Peak:
This trip report for hiking Ramshorn Peak is from August 2, 2015.