Sypes Canyon Trail


This trail is a favorite destination on a hot summer day as it ascends through shaded forests along Sypes Creek. Glacier lilies (Fritillaria  pudica and shooting stars (Dodecatheon  pulchellum) are present as soon as the snow melts and common  harebells (Campanula  rotundifolia) and asters (Erigeron  spp.) bloom until late September.

Sypes Canyon trail can be hiked in early spring to early winter before snow and ice make the trail somewhat treacherous for casual hikers. The beautiful and rare fairy slippers or calypso orchids (Calypso  bulbosa) are found on this trail in addition to hundreds of other wildflowers. Striped coralroot (Corallorhiza  striata) is also a favorite of ours—a showy, 6–16” tall dark reddish purple-stemmed plant with small red-and-white striped flowers that resemble orchids. This non-chlorophyll producing plant is usually found in wooded and shady areas.


From I–90 and the North 7th Avenue overpass, drive 2 miles north on 7th Avenue (West Frontage Road) to Springhill Road. Turn right at the light and drive 1.5 miles to Sypes Canyon Road. Turn right and continue 3.2 miles to Churn Road. Turn right and go 50 yards to the signed trailhead at the end of the road. Please respect the “No Parking” areas that are reserved for residents in the area. Overflow parking is available across from the mailboxes.
Trail Description: 

The trail heads east through a grassy, fenced access and then enters a lush forest canopy into Sypes Canyon following Sypes Creek on the southwest slope of Baldy Mountain in the Bridger Range and ending on an overlook with outstanding views of the Gallatin Valley, Bozeman, and the Madison, Gallatin, and Tobacco Root Ranges. The trail crosses several seasonal streams and dips occasionally to Sypes Creek.

In late spring watch for Canada violets (Viola  Canadensis) under the canopy of many berry-producing shrubs along the trail, including black  hawthorn (Crataegus  douglasii), serviceberry (Amelanchier  alnifolia), and chokecherry (Prunus  virginiana). Cross over to the north side of the creek, and head up the north wall of the canyon above Sypes Creek. Wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana), Wood’s rose (Rosa nutkana), western meadowrue (Thalictrum  occidentale), and red-osier (aka red-twig dogwood) (Cornus sericea/stolonifera) bloom in early June and add a garden-like appearance to the trail. The flowers and shrubs attract birds and butterflies all season-long.
About ½ mile from the trailhead, the trail starts steeply up a narrow path to a ridge. Along the ascent watch for late spring flowers including many-flowered stickseed (Hackelia  floribunda), heartleaf  arnica (Arnica  cordifolia), field  chickweed (Cerastium  arvense), prairiesmoke (Geum  triflorum), and Oregon  grape (Berberis repens/Mahonia repens). The trail then descends alongside a rock wall cliff into the lush, forested canyon. Rock clematis (Clematis  columbiana), sticky  geranium (Geranium viscosissimum), false  Solomon’s  seal (Smilacina  racemosa/Maianthemum  racemosum), and long-leaf  phlox (Phlox  longifolia) are a few of the flowers seen along the upper reaches of Sypes Canyon. The trail curves right at one mile, heading south up the canyon while skirting the edge of the national forest boundary. Another steep ascent and switchback marks an area with an abundance of fairy  slippers or calypso  orchids (Calypso  bulbosa). Watch for them in mid-to-late June or early July. The ascent continues through the shade of a lodgepole pine forest and past chocolate  lilies (aka leopard lilies (Fritillaria atropurpurea), a heavily camouflaged brownish flower with leopard spots.  Watch for poker  heuchera (aka round-leaved alumroot)  (Heuchera  cylindrica), showy  Jacobs’s  ladder (Polemonium  pulcherrimum), and striped coralroot (Corallorhiza  striata).

In July 2008, the meadows were a garden of pink and blue with wild  bergamot (aka bee  balm) (Monarda  fitulosa) and showy  fleabane  daisy (Erigeron  speciosus). A trail sign marks the intersection of Sypes Canyon Trail with the “Ridge Trail.” Bear right 200 yards to a vista overlook of Bozeman, the Gallatin Valley, and the Madison Range. The trail ends in a large meadow that in the late spring is full of lupine (Lupinus  spp.), arrowleaf  balsamroot (Balsamorhiza  sagittata), larkspur (Delphinium  bicolor),  sagebrush (Artemisia  spp.), and bluebells (Mertensia  spp.). This is a great spot to relax, picnic, and enjoy the views before returning back down Sypes Canyon Trail. To hike further, the trail continues to climb to a junction with the Foothills National Recreation Trail.

Trail Notes: 

Trails may be open to mountain bikes and horses. No bikes are allowed on Saturdays. Check with the Gallatin National Forest Offices or refer to the signage at the trail head.


GPS Coordinates: Trailhead—N 45 44.700, W 111 00.467;  Overlook—N 45 44.391 W 110 59.354


Rating: Moderate with several steep climbs up a well maintained trail


Trail Length:  4 miles Round Trip


Location:  Bridger Range North of Bozeman


Elevation:  5217 Feet at Trailhead to 6280 Feet at Overlook


Elevation Gain:  1063 feet


Bloom Season: June to Late September


Peak Bloom:  Late June to Early August


Maps: U.S.G.S. Bozeman and Kelly Creek, U.S.F.S. Gallatin National Forest: West Half or East Half

5-30-09 Most of the early flowers are blooming with an especially nice display of Canada violets, rock clematis, larkspur, and calypso orchids. The beautiful calypso orchids are at their peak. Nearly 50 other flowers were logged on this date. Spring beauties, glacier lilies, and shooting stars are about over except near the top of the trail.


6-5-11 Flowers are a couple of weeks late due to heavy snows and cold weather. Today was 82° and clear with lots of bikes, people with dogs, and joggers. Most of the early flowers are blooming with glacier  lilies being the flower of the day. Other flowers near peak bloom included Canada violets, arnica, ballhead waterleaf, wartberry  fairy-bells. Yellow draba spp. flowers were very showy in the steep rock crevices on the left of the trail. Flowers that were between 40 and 80% peak included larkspur, mountain  bluebells, and arrowleaf  balsamroot. Spring beauties, yellowbells, shooting  stars, Coos, Wyoming  kittentails, biscuitroot, and pasqueflowers were still blooming on top of the ridge. Larkspur, calypso orchids, sugarbowls, and  rock clematis were just starting to bloom. A few chocolate  lily buds were found on their long stems in the woods. Other flowers found here and there include blue-eyed  Mary, narrow-leaved  collomia, fern-leaved  lovage, and strawberry.



Flowers are generally two weeks earlier than last year. Most of the early flowers are blooming with glacier lilies, Oregon grape, rock clematis, wartberry fairy-bells, and Canada violets being the showiest flowers of the day. Surprisingly, the calypso orchids are blooming and should peak in a week or two. There is a nice showing of yellow draba spp. at the summit of the first climb to the rock face. Where the trail splits, we took the left (N) trail and found many of the early spring flowers still blooming (pasqueflowers, yellowbells, spring beauties, and shooting stars). Serviceberry is also in bloom. Other flowers seen include false Solomon seal, ballhead waterleaf, spring beauty, Coos biscuitroot, mountain bluebells, buttercups, twinflower (Utah) honeysuckle, Hood’s phlox, miner’s lettuce, arnica, fern-leaved lovage, chokecherry, arrowleaf balsamroot, alpine stars, field chickweed, long leaf phlox, nine-leaf parley, lemonweed, collomia, threadleaf phacelia, larkspur, and Nuttal’s violet.

6-5-14: 75° and clear skies at 2:00 pm. Beautiful day to hike Sypes Canyon. We only had a couple of hours so we hiked to the rock outcrop where the trail starts downhill. It was a stellar day for Canada violets, wild hyacinth (brodia), star-flowered Solomon seal, many-flowered stickseed, silverleaf phacelia, arrowleaf balsamroot, heartleaf arnica, low larkspur, mountain bluebells, yarrow, and fernleaved lovage. The mountain ash and chokecherry bushes were in full bloom; the scent of chokecherries permeated the air along the trail. Other flowers noted included: baneberry, field chickweed, poker heuchera (alumroot), threadleaf phacelia, fuzzytongue penstamon, lance-leaved stonecrop, springbeauty, lupine, woodland star, and Western gromwell (puccoon).




Photos on this page (Top to Bottom): Striped Coralroot, Calypso Orchid (Fairy Slipper), Bee Balm, Chocolate Lily (Leopard Lily) Click to Enlarge.

Photos by Carolyn K. Hopper

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