Offering vistas of two mountain ranges, Ramshorn Peak provides a foothills to alpine climb near Yellowstone National Park for those in good shape and savvy in bear country.

The Gallatin Range runs north to south, just west of the equally rugged Absaorka Range, across Paradise Valley, and the Yellowstone River. The area is ripe with access to some truly wild and gnarly mountains all the way to the edge of the park.

The highest summit in the southern Gallatins is Ramshorn Peak at more than 10,200 feet. The rocky fortress sits high above Tom Miner Basin and is easily seen on the drive to the trailhead at Tom Miner Campground.

If Tom Miner Basin sounds familiar, it could be from reports of grizzly bear activity and occasional run-ins with recreationists. As a stronghold for the bruins, hiking and camping should come with necessary caution and a hefty can of bear spray.

From Tom Miner Campground, take Trail 120 for about 2.5 miles to Buffalo Horn Pass. The hike gradually climbs through conifer stands and creek bottoms with an occasional glimpse of Ramshorn. The trail junction is a great place to grab a drink of water and granola bar before bagging the climb to the summit.

From the pass the trail quickly gets steep, following the edge of a cliff with a few switchbacks through whitebark pine and open meadows. A grassy mountainside is bordered by formidable cliffs with often visible mountain goats and occasional bighorn sheep.

For 1.5 miles the trail continues its steep but safe ascent and views of Ramshorn Lake below, the Absaorka and Madison ranges, Big Sky Resort and into Yellowstone National Park. The final steps to the summit reveal multiple valleys stretched from high alpine basins. On a calm day the peak is a prime spot for lunch. But when the wind is howling it is probably a better idea to snap a few photos and drop down to some sheltering trees.

Reporter Tom Kuglin can be reached at 447-4076 @IR_TomKuglin

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