At one extreme, you have the boardwalks-and-bus-stops Yellowstone. At the other, this wild alpine route. The 40-mile trek winds along the spine of the Gallatin Range, where you’ll cross massive summits, skirt streamside elk meadows, and even explore a petrified forest.
The route traverses 9,888-foot Big Horn Peak (day two) and passes two more must-bag peaks: 9,855-foot Sheep Mountain and 10,959-foot Electric Peak. Allow a half day for the straightforward detour up Sheep Mountain from Shelf Lake, and a full day for the challenging scramble up Electric Peak. Expect to see elk, deer, and swans along the rivers, bighorn sheep on ridges, and probably bears.
The price for such a wondrous trip? The initial 3,000-foot climb out of Gallatin River Canyon, and scarce water sources; carry a gallon for the dry six-mile leg between Black Butte Creek and Shelf Lake, more if you’re camping between the two. Get advance reservations ($20, beginning April 1).
The Way Start: Daly Creek trailhead on US 191, south of Bozeman. Finish: Glen Creek trailhead, south of Mammoth. Map Trails Illustrated Mammoth Hot Springs ($10, natgeomaps.com)