Sepulcher Mountain Trail
ElevationAscent: 2,003' 611 m
Descent: -2,864' -873 m
High: 9,600' 2,926 m
Low: 6,746' 2,056 m
GradeAvg Grade: 13% (8°)
Max Grade: 37% (20°)
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“Trail summits Sepulcher Mountain and affords great views of Gardiner, MT and the Yellowstone valley.”— Tom Carter
From the trailhead, the Sepulcher Trail begins a steady 2,000-foot climb in the first 2.7 miles to the top of the mountain. The trail climbs steeply, zigzagging through open south-facing meadows affording nice views to the south of Swan Lake Flat and the Gallatin Mountains. The wildflowers displays are also impressive in June and early July. The area to the south, known as Gardner’s Hole, is drained by the Gardner River. Both are named for Johnson Gardner, who trapped beaver here in the 1830s.
The top of Sepulcher has more trees than the route up, but there are still nice views to the west of imposing Electric Peak, more than 1,000 feet higher than Sepulcher. Electric Peak was named following an 1872 incident near the summit in which a geological party heard a “crackling noise” and felt electricity “so strong that [they] were obliged to . . . hurry down.”
From the highpoint, the trail continues north, then bends right along a steep precipice. Among the craggy rocks below is one that when viewed from Gardiner, Montana more than 4,000 feet below, resembles a tombstone, hence the name Sepulcher Mountain. Notice the town of Gardiner is spelled with an extra "i". This is the result of a phonetic error by members of the 1870 Washburn Expedition, who used the "Gardiner" spelling in their many articles and publications. As a result, a number of features became erroneously shown on many maps. In the 1940s, the USGS relabeled maps using the correct spelling. Only the town persists in using the "Gardiner" spelling.
Soon the trail enters its steepest section, falling more than 900 feet in .8 miles. The trail levels briefly, then continues through intermittent forests and meadows and occasional switchbacks. Views of Mammoth Hot Springs and flat-topped Mount Everts are good. The final .8 miles are mostly in the trees. The trail ends at a junction with the Beaver Ponds Loop Trail. To reach Mammoth, turn right and continue .8 mile (and dropping another 450 feet) to Mammoth Hot Springs.
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone.
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Land Manager: National Park Service - Yellowstone National Park