Trail Run Project Logo

Up River Ski Loop

Intermediate

Trail

1.7 mile 2.7 kilometer loop
99% Runnable
Intermediate

Elevation

Ascent: 61' 19 m
Descent: -60' -18 m
High: 6,687' 2,038 m
Low: 6,643' 2,025 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 1% (1°)
Max Grade: 12% (7°)

Dogs

No Dogs
Driving directions Take a virtual tour
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

Trail shared by Tom Carter

Intermediate challenge ski loop with great views of the Madison River.

Tom Carter

Features Birding · River/Creek · Views · Wildlife

This ski trail is used only in Winter. Check in West Yellowstone at Freeheel & Wheel ski rentals for a Grooming Report.

Although you enter Yellowstone, no Park Pass is required.

Description

The Up River Ski Loop is shorter but more challenging than the Down River Ski Loop Trail, especially the second half of the loop coming back through the trees. From the trailhead in West Yellowstone the full loop is 4.1 miles (including both ways on the 1.2-mile connector trail used to reach the starting point).

After cruising through the flat, straight, rather boring 1.2-mile Connector to Riverside Ski Trails you arrive at a junction. To the right is the Up River Ski Loop (to the left is the Down River Ski Loop). Turn right and begin your adventure.

The trail quickly comes to a nice overlook of the Madison River then drops down a fun hill to reach the banks of the river. The Madison forms at the joining of the Firehole and Gibbon rivers about 12 miles up stream. The river ends near Three Forks, Montana where it joins the Jefferson and Gallatin rivers to form the Missouri River. Lewis and Clark named these rivers in 1805 to honor three individuals who were important to the expedition – President Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State James Madison (who negotiated the Louisiana Purchase), and Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin (who paid for the trip).

As the trail continues along the Madison, look for waterfowl including trumpeter swans and Canada geese. You might also spot an osprey or bald eagle circling above searching for a meal of brown, rainbow, or cutthroat trout or large whitefish that populate the river. The small structure on the banks of the river up ahead is a Stream Gaging Station operated by the USGS to measure the Madison’s water level and flow rate.

At the .7-mile mark the trail loops back to the right and enters the trees for the return trip. The second half of the loop is not hard, but it is a little more challenging, with a few small hills and a couple of tight turns. This portion is fun if you can handle it. Many like the river so much they just turn around and follow their ski tracks back. If you continue the loop it's a mile through the trees back to the junction.

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

Watch for trumpeter swans on the Madison River. The river never freezes because of the hot spring runoff up stream. This allows these rare birds to winter here. These graceful birds grow to thirty pounds and have a wingspan of eight feet. Watch for their long neck to pop up like a periscope. If you see one, there is a good chance you will see another. They often mate for life and are usually seen in pairs. If you see some with a brown tone, these are their cygnets.

Run this trail?

We need help with the following missing trail information:

Need to Know, Runner Notes

Is something wrong? Let us know. Have photos to share? Help fellow runners know what's here.

Contacts

Rate This Trail

Rate Quality


   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Trail

Check In

Check-Ins

none

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 2 votes

#9500

Overall
  4.0 from 2 votes
5 Star
0%
4 Star
100%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Trail Rankings

#212

in Montana

#9,500

Overall
4 Views Last Month
256 Since Sep 10, 2015
Intermediate

0%
0%
100%
0%
0%
0%

Photos

Madison River from the Up River Ski Loop.
May 2, 2016 near West Ye…, MT
Too many choices -- should I go up river or down?
May 2, 2016 near West Ye…, MT

0 Comments

Trail Run Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Running