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Specimen Creek Trail

Difficult
 4.3 (3)

Follows the North Fork of Specimen Creek up 2400 feet, past Shelf Lake, to the spectacular Sky Rim.


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Map Key

8.3

Miles

13.4

KM

91%

Runnable

9,314' 2,839 m

High

6,914' 2,107 m

Low

2,417' 737 m

Up

17' 5 m

Down

6%

Avg Grade (3°)

43%

Max Grade (23°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Description

The Specimen Creek Trail begins in the northwest corner of Yellowstone at a trailhead 25 miles north of West Yellowstone on US Highway 191. The trail heads northeast along Specimen Creek through heavily burned forests for 2.1 miles before reaching a junction with the Sportsman Lake Trail. Turn left and continue up the North Fork of Specimen Creek which passes between Meldrum Mountain and Bighorn Peak. About 1/2 mile past the junction, in the open dirt bluffs above the trail to the left, are excellent examples of petrified trees for which Specimen Creek is named. A sharp eye should be able to spot them. Remember, specimen collecting is illegal.

At the 6.1-mile mark the trail again branches to the left. In the next 2 miles the trail climbs 1400 feet to the banks of beautiful Shelf Lake. The well-named, 7 acre, 40 foot deep, lake sits in a narrow shelf on the side of the mountain. At 9200 feet, Shelf Lake is one of the highest lakes in the park. There are two excellent campsites on the lake; they both have some of the best campsite views in Yellowstone. From the lake, the Specimen Creek Trail continues to the left, gaining another 140 feet in the last .2 miles and ends at its junction with the Sky Rim Trail at the 10.7-mile mark.

Visitors can turn left and follow the Sky Rim Trail as it spectacularly traces the park’s extreme northwestern boundary for almost 10 miles. A right turn follows the Sky Rim Trail up another 780 feet in less than a mile to the top of Sheep Mountain (10095') the highest mountain in this area and which is conspicuously topped by a huge metal screen called a “microflector.” The views from Sheep are out of this world!

Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone.

Flora & Fauna

Great chance to see moose, elk, and big horn sheep. Grizzly bears also frequent the area.

Contacts

Shared By:

Tom Carter

Trail Ratings

  4.3 from 3 votes

#8145

Overall
  4.3 from 3 votes
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Trail Rankings

#206

in Montana

#8,145

Overall
22 Views Last Month
2,415 Since Sep 10, 2015
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Photos

Shelf Lake
Nov 29, 2018 near Gardiner, MT
Shelf Lake in the late afternoon hue.
Sep 19, 2017 near Gardiner, MT
One of the many twists and turns of Specimen Creek.
Sep 19, 2017 near Gardiner, MT
Shelf Lake
Nov 29, 2018 near Gardiner, MT
On the Specimen Creek Trail near the confluence of the North Fork and the East Fork of Specimen Creek.
May 8, 2016 near Gardiner, MT
Shelf Lake, at 9,160', one of the highest lakes in Yellowstone.
May 8, 2016 near Gardiner, MT

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