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View south from Little Ellis

Little Ellis Peak and Mount Ellis
Bozeman, Montana
July 14, 2022
Distance: 16.8 km (10.4 mi)
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 1042 m (3419 ft)

When Dinah and I stepped on the trail, we planned to climb Little Ellis Peak (aka Lower Mount Ellis). We would then decide if we wanted to continue along the trail to Mount Ellis, 2 km farther and appreciably higher. Our concern was the weather. It was going to be hot, and there was a risk of an afternoon thunderstorm.

The trailhead for Mount Ellis is just ten minutes from Bozeman. We thought 8:30 am was a reasonable start, yet it was already uncomfortably warm. Nor did it help that the first 2 km are devoid of trees; the morning sun blazed down on us. So we were thankful to reach the cool shade of the forest. Immediately, we came to a fork and turned left.

Using switchbacks, the trail ascends forest and meadows. The final, short stretch to Little Ellis is steep but mercifully in trees. However, the summit is mostly bare, providing views all around. Other hikers were already there. We talked to a girl, a local apparently, who had hiked partway down to the saddle that connects to Mount Ellis. She stopped on a rocky spine for the views before turning around. Dinah suggested we do that.

The rocks were a nice stopping point, but now Dinah wanted to see the saddle. I wasn't keen on losing more elevation – 100 m in all from Little Ellis – but she was determined to go. However, I was curious about an animal trail that I had read about, a trail that traverses below Little Ellis so one doesn't have to climb back up it. On our ascent, we had passed no such trail, so I was skeptical. Yet on the saddle, we found a trail marked with a cairn, presumably the shortcut to the main trail. That goaded me on. We could climb Ellis and take this trail back without climbing Little Ellis again. Dinah, of course, was now set on climbing Mount Ellis. We checked our water – we had lots left – and with the temperature soaring, we started up.

Humidity from yesterday's rain exacerbated the heat, but we slogged up the trail, stopping frequently to rest in the shade of trees. We reached the top of Ellis, took photos and headed back down. Unlike Little Ellis, the views on Mount Ellis are scant. Trees block the scenery along the ridge, and the scene from the summit is narrowly confined to the southwest.

We returned to the saddle and followed the animal trail below Little Ellis. It was a nice, narrow path, although it disappeared in a meadow long before reaching the main trail. We got back on the trail and followed it to the parking lot.

Although Mount Ellis has little to offer in the way of scenery, we were pleased we had the gumption to climb it. The words of the local came back to me. Although she didn't climb Ellis on this day, she had climbed it before; she said she can see Mount Ellis from the city and takes satisfaction that she did it.

KML and GPX Tracks

Mount Ellis and Little Ellis Peak

The trailhead

2 km later, the trail enters the forest

Soon after entering the trees, we turned left at the fork

We passed lupine (mouse over) by the trail

The trail passes a clearing with far-ranging views. Bridger Range is centre left.

A close-up of Saddle Peak on Bridger Range

Wildflowers filled the meadows

We glimpsed a moose before it fled

Little Ellis is just visible ahead

Western blue flag iris

Mount Ellis and Little Ellis Peak

Hiking up the steep trail to the summit

On the summit of Little Ellis

This trail, according to a hiker on the top, is a direct route back. The steep trail knocks off .8 miles and ends at the west fork.

Starting down the trail to Mount Ellis

We climbed the rock spine next to the trail

Dinah studies the ridge leading to Mount Ellis

Starting up Mount Ellis from the Saddle

Looking back at Little Ellis

Balsamroot filled the meadows but trees blocked views on either side of the ridge

Looking back we see we are now higher than Little Ellis

On the summit

Trees on the summit limit views to the southwest

On our descent we noticed clouds building behind us

A cairn on the saddle marks the start of the animal trail that traverses below Little Ellis

The trail ducks in and out of trees but is easy to follow

The animal trail disappears into a meadow long before reaching the main trail

Mount Ellis (10.4 mi, 8356 ft, 3087 ft)

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