Dogs allowed

Dogs are allowed on the Lower Wildhorse Trail in Hyalite Canyon. Skiing is free but a donation to Friends of Hyalite to help fund grooming and plowing is appreciated.

For beginner to intermediate cross-country skiers, Hyalite Canyon’s Lower Wildhorse Trail is a fun route with a great view.

The total distance is about four miles, with an elevation gain of roughly 400 feet.

Hyalite Canyon is about 17 miles south of Bozeman on the Custer Gallatin National Forest. The road to the recreation area is plowed in the winter, but you probably don’t want to drive your sedan up the road, in case there are ruts. But, many folks do.

To access the Wildhorse Trail, drive across the dam to the parking area near the spillway. Ski across the spillway and take a left on the trail into the forest. The road climbs a short way before coming to an intersection. I took the right hand route, but many other skiers kept going straight to the next intersection and then turned right.

It’s a loop trail so here’s the difference. Going my way you climb up a winding, uphill section that can cause crashes if you are a skier of average skills coming downhill on this same section. This is the biggest climb of the loop, whereas if you go straight and then turn right, the climb is more gradual, but the descent is a challenge. Your choice.

Either way there’s a great overlook near Hood Creek looking up the canyon to the mountains. Maps are posted at each intersection providing skiers an idea of where they are and how far they have to go.

The Bridger Ski Foundation provides a great online map of the area at www.bridgerskifoundation.org. Or sign up and download Katie Gibson and Scott Bischke’s Montana cross country skiing app, Cross Country Ski Montana and you will have them at your fingertips.

You can easily spend a few days just exploring the many trails up Hyalite. Donate to the Friends of Hyalite to keep access to this great resource possible.

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Montana Untamed Editor

Montana Untamed editor for the Billings Gazette.