Hiking The Hogback: Unique spot allows hikers to get outdoors most of the year

By: 
Dwight Harriman

You are suffering from cabin fever and are itching to get into the mountains. But it’s still winter and your favorite trails are covered in snow. What to do?

Hike the Hogback.

“The Hogback” is the name given a sharp ridge on the western side of Paradise Valley that’s a favorite of hikers looking to get a quick outdoor fix without spending an entire day.

And the best thing about it: Because it’s exposed and not heavily covered with trees, it’s free of the white stuff much of the year.

“It’s a great early or late-season jaunt,” Dale Sexton, owner of Livingston’s Timber Trails, said.

The location is also a favorite of hang gliders, who launch off the ridge into the stiff breezes that blow there.

 But here’s the deal: The Hogback trail is not a U.S. Forest Service trail. It’s on mostly private land, and it’s only through the generosity of the landowner that local folks can use it. So be considerate — if you go there, don’t litter or disturb the landscape. Keep it like you found it so people can keep enjoying it.

OK, getting there is pretty simple. Just drive 10 miles south of Livingston on U.S. 89 South and turn right on Divide Road. Go up the gravel road .7 miles to a grassy/dirt parking area. Just before you get to the parking area, the road forks, with Old Yellowstone Trail going off to the left. Stay right and immediately you’ll come to the parking spot located on a rightward bend of the road.

You’ll then walk through a trio of fence posts designed to keep cattle out. Shortly, you’ll cross the Park Branch Canal. From there, it’s just straight up the ridge for hiking fun. It’s pretty steep and rocky, so be sure to wear some decent hiking shoes.

As you start up, you’ll see a windsock, presumably placed there for hang gliders to gauge the winds.

At this time of year, make sure you take enough clothing to keep warm, because the wind can blow really hard on the exposed ridge — there’s a reason hang gliders love the place — wicking heat away from your body.

And, if you want to stop for rest or eat a little lunch along the way, you’ll even encounter a picnic table on a flat spot up the trail.

Then, when you get high on the ridge, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most spectacular views of Paradise Valley anywhere in the area.

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Dwight Harriman may be reached at dharriman@livent.net.

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