Backpacker Magazine

Bozeman: The Sentinel via Windy Pass Trail 

Climb the rocky guardian of the northern Gallatin Range on this 10-mile out-and-back to a skyline full of lofty pinnacles.

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Author: Backpacker Magazine
Date: 10 Sep 2006 2:43:35 PM
Activity: Hiking
State: Montana (MT)
Distance: 10 mi  (Change units)
Survey Elevation: Total Gain: 2322 ft
Total Loss: 445 ft
Net Change: 1877 ft
Difficulty: 6 / 10
Tags: Bozeman, Gallatin Gateway, Montana
Rating: Unrated   Rate it

From the east end of the parking lot, follow Windy Pass Trail to the east (ignore the logging road, also labeled as Windy Pass Trailhead). The forested path descends to the right, curving down to a gentle mountain creek; cross the creek on rocks, then continue heading east. After 1.2 miles, a moderate climb begins through dense forest. Roughly half a mile later, bear left at a Y-junction and climb into alpine meadows, passing the rustic Windy Pass Cabin. Just past the cabin, bear right at another trail fork and climb the broadly sloping ridge that rises to the north. Stop every now and then to admire the snow-brushed Spanish Peaks to the northwest.

Less than 3 miles into the hike, the route crests the top of the ridge and veers to the northwest. As you gradually ascend through meadows riotous with wildflowers, neighboring peaks come closer to eye level and unobstructed views of the rugged Gallatin Range fill up the horizon. The trail curves to the northeast near mile 4 for the final, 1-mile stretch to The Sentinel's 9,945-foot summit. Drop your pack at the top and gaze at the mountains that stretch for miles around this boot-shaped peak. Follow the same route back to the trailhead.

-Mapped by Trung Q. Le

TO TRAILHEAD: US 191 S (toward Gallatin Gateway). In 33 mi., turn L onto Portal Creek Rd. Go 8.5 mi. and park at trailhead.

Position Format: Datum:

The Sentinel

Distance: 4.99 mi Points: 171
Total Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi
Active Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi

Points of Interest


Location: 45.258335, -111.127267
Follow Windy Pass Trail, starting from the east end of the lot (don't confuse with gravel logging road on the south end, also labeled Windy Pass Trailhead).


Location: 45.258335, -111.125100
Forested path descends to the right, curving down to a gentle mountain creek; use rocks as stepping-stones to cross.


Location: 45.260374, -111.111624
Moderate climb through dense forest.


Location: 45.262352, -111.102591
Bear left @ Y; trail climbs into alpine meadows.


Location: 45.265086, -111.101475
Pass rustic Windy Pass Cabin; bear right @ Y toward The Sentinel.


Location: 45.270356, -111.095767
Stop and admire the snow-brushed Spanish Peaks to the northwest.


Location: 45.273860, -111.094523
Bear left @ Y; unobstructed views of rugged Gallatin Range.


Location: 45.278223, -111.099029
Ascend gradually through meadows riotous with wildflowers, as neighboring peaks come closer to eye level.


Location: 45.282421, -111.103964
Viewed from an unnamed peak, The Sentinel dominates the northeast skyline; in other directions, see a galaxy of stunning peaks.


Location: 45.291011, -111.102762
Trail curves to the northeast; only 1 mile remains of gradual ridgeline climb.


Location: 45.297909, -111.090746
More mountains stretch for miles around The Sentinel's boot-shaped peak (9,945 ft.). Yellowstone National Park sits to the south.

Snowy Peaks

Location: 45.278601, -111.099629
©Trung Q. Le

Windy Pass Cabin

Location: 45.265101, -111.101239
©Trung Q. Le

Distant Peaks

Location: 45.275717, -111.096304
©Trung Q. Le

Expansive Views

Location: 45.276955, -111.097398
©Trung Q. Le

Lone Mountain

Location: 45.277755, -111.098256
©Trung Q. Le


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