The Mount Holmes Trail is a strenuous 11.2 mile (one way) hike that summits one of the southern-most peaks in the Gallatin Mountains in Yellowstone National Park. The trail ascends through gorgeous meadows alongside lush creeks before climbing up to the summit, featuring panoramic views around every turn.
If 22.4 miles feels a bit too lengthy for one day, you can take advantage of two backcountry campsites roughly halfway up the trail to break up the hike. However you hike it, it’s a fantastic ascent with jaw-dropping views!
Mount Holmes Trail Description
From the Mount Holmes Trailhead, pass through a large meadow with more northern Gallatin peaks rising to the north. At the opposite end of the meadow, you’ll begin a quick climb up into a sparse forest. The easy ascent crosses a small creek along its way, paralleling the meadow. The woods begin to thicken along the easy section of trail.
Winter Creek Crossing to Grizzly Lake Junction
The trail then cuts west, and as the forest thins you’ll notice you’re following underneath some power lines for a short distance. Soon after, you’ll reach a crossing with Winter Creek, typically flowing strong all season long. This is relevant since the only way across is to ford, so be prepared. Once across Winter Creek, you’ll cut away from the power lines, now paralleling the creek below and to the left.
In a beautiful meadow with sparse tree cover, you’ll make an easy climb above the creek, soon reaching a gorgeous overlook of the creek. From here, you’ll wrap around a bend in the creek, beginning to head south. The forest will thicken as you make another small stream crossing. You’ll then wind along wetlands for a bit before the trail begins climbing out.
From here, the trail begins making a more steady climb toward the hill on the right. Through a large meadow, you’ll continue climbing through a thin forest, reaching a junction at 2.7 miles in. Left heads toward Grizzly Lake, while right continues up to Mount Holmes.
Grizzly Lake Junction to Winter Creek Campsites
Up the expansive open hillside, you’ll maintain a climb up the hill, breathtaking vistas looking up Straight Creek to the left dominating the scenery and landscape. Shortly after, you’ll then follow a bend into the Winter Creek drainage. With enchanting views all around, the trail wraps back around to the south again, following Winter Creek as it turns toward Mount Holmes.
As a bit of a teaser, both Trilobite Point and Mount Holmes come into view for just a bit far ahead. You’ll wind along the ridge and into a forest grove, where the trail then drops down for easy hiking alongside the creek. For the next 2 miles or so, you’ll follow the creek along the bottom of the shallow canyon. Through this stretch, you’ll pass through wide meadows, forest groves, and wetlands as the trail makes a gradual bend to the west. As you reach a noticeably wider meadow than prior, you’ll once again see Trilobite Point and Mount Holmes crowning the landscape.
With the trail winding along the north side of the large meadow, you soon reach the first of two backcountry campsites on the left, discretely tucked away in the woods. Continuing up the trail, you’ll pass through more serene forest where you’ll soon notice an old cabin on the right. Nearby this old patrol cabin, you’ll also reach a junction at 5.8 miles in. Right takes you up to Trilobite Lake, while left continues up to Mount Holmes.
Almost immediately after the junction, you’ll reach a fork for the second backcountry campsite on the left. Accessing this one requires a ford of Winter Creek, and is tucked away roughly 0.25 miles from the trail. Just past this fork, you’ll enter some willows to make an easy crossing of Winter Creek; no ford required.
Winter Creek Campsites to Saddle
Once you’ve crossed Winter Creek one last time, the trail begins a more steady ascent and rarely lets up. You’ll wind through peaceful woods as views to the left soon begin to appear through the trees. As you emerge from the forest, you’ll treated to massive views all around. As the trail continues to climb, it will also wrap around the south side of Trilobite Point.
With a bit of easy hiking, you’ll wander through a thin forest. Here you’ll notice South White Peak rising straight ahead. The thin trees soon fade away you’ll find yourself immersed in a lush and open mountainside, views once again commanding you to stop and admire. The trail will wind around a large alpine ridge, where stunning views of South White Peak, Mount Holmes, and Trilobite Peak all dominate the scenery ahead and around you.
Heading toward the base of Mount Holmes, you’ll quickly enter into a forest nearing treeline. The trail gets noticeably steeper through here, the peaks still visible through breaks in the trees. Through the lengthy forest climb, you’re still graced with an occasional exquisite view of Yellowstone. With views opening to the south, you then reach a larger burn area, many young trees growing in the vicinity. Just ahead, you can make out the saddle beyond a small hill.
South White Peak rises dramatically ahead, with Mount Holmes’ equally impressive height rising to the right as you begin to climb around the small hill to make one last ascent to the saddle. You’ll follow the trail up a small alpine drainage, complete with talus and loose rock. At last, the view beyond the saddle rises dramatically in the distance and it doesn’t disappoint!
Saddle to Mount Holmes Summit
Immense views of the Gallatin Mountains to the north fill in the landscape as small alpine lakes rest below. The trail begins a steep climb up Mount Holmes’ northwest side and into a small whitebark pine forest. You’ll ascend a pair of switchbacks, continuing the steep climb up the northwest side. The next stretch seems to keep going, though jaw-dropping views to the north will keep you plenty entertained, while also encouraging you to catch your breath, if needed.
You then reach one last switchback, cutting southwest toward the peak. This relatively short stretch heads directly for the summit, the remnants of the fire lookout station clearly visible. Destroyed in 2019 from a lightning strike, only the base of the lookout station remains, with a few charred items.
From the summit, you have unparalleled 360 degree views of Yellowstone National Park and beyond. With incredible views all around, it’s worth it to take out a map and identify many of the more prominent landmarks of the area: Hebgen Lake; Norris Geyser Basin; Mount Washburn; etc. When ready, head back out the same way you came in.
From the Norris Geyser Basin, head north on the Grand Loop Road for 9.5 miles. Look for the Mount Holmes Trailhead on your left.
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