Brand new in 2022 is the Cutler-Sphinx Trail located north of Gardiner, MT, and west of the Yellowstone River in Yankee Jim Canyon. The roughly 5.5-mile point-to-point trail takes hikers and mountain bikers through sagebrush, grasslands, and juniper forest.
General Trail Information
The Cutler-Sphinx Trail #283 is a point-to-point trail that travels between two trailheads that are about 3 miles apart. Use two vehicles or a vehicle and a bicycle for doing a shuttle or you can make a loop hike by adding the 3 miles of remote road to the trail hike. The trail is used by hikers and mountain bikers but it is not a highly trafficked trail.
The trail itself is about 5.75 miles long. About 2 miles of this is along the existing Sphinx Creek trail while the rest is newly constructed trail. The highest point along the trail is about 6,600 ft as it circles around Sphinx Mountain. The Cutler Lake Trailhead is at 5,300 ft making it a 1,200 ft climb from this end. The Sphinx Creek trailhead is actually at a lower elevation – about 5,060 ft, adding about 250 ft if you enter from this end.
Most of the trail is through a mix of grasslands, sagebrush and juniper trees. Long sections of trail are open with little or no shade. There are many reports of rattlesnakes along the trail. Elk and deer are found in the area as are black and Grizzly bears. Always be Bear Aware!
Directions to the trail
The Cutler-Sphinx Trail is located on National Forest land about 14 miles northwest of Gardiner, MT. The two trailheads are on Old Yellowstone Trail South which follows the Yellowstone River on it’s west bank. This gravel/dirt road used to run through Yankee Jim Canyon to connect with the Tom Miner Basin Road. However, the road is blocked today so the only drive-in access to the Cutler-Sphinx Trail is from the south.
Old Yellowstone Trail is reached by turning west from US 89 in Corwin Springs (46 miles south of Livingston, 8 miles north of Gardiner.) Take the connector road acriss the bridge to reach Old Yellowstone Trail. Turn north (right) and stay on Old Yellowstone Trail for about 3 miles to the Cutler Lake parking area or 6 miles to the Sphinx Creek picnic area & trailhead. A short distance from the bridge the road splits to three roads running in the same direction. Stay on the lowest road through this stretch. About 4.5 miles from the bridge much of the road was underwater during the 2022 flood. Beware of bad road conditions on this stretch.
Cutler Lake Trailhead
The Cutler Lake Trailhead has a small parking area and an information sign board. It is very scenic as it overlooks the ruiver to the southeast. The trail is across the road from the parking area. It immediately begins climbing slowly through open sagebrush and grasslands.