Hiking the Cinnamon Mountain Lookout Trail in the Madison Range
Location: Cinnamon Mountain, Madison Range, Montana
Rating: I Class 1
Type: Out and Back
Trailhead: Cinnamon Creek Trailhead (10.5 miles south of Big Sky, across from Cinnamon Lodge)
Distance: 8.55 miles
Time: 4 hours
Elevation Cinnamon Creek TH: 6600′
Elevation Cinnamon Mountain: 9235′
Total Elevation Gain: 2670′
Lat/Long: N 45° 07.800′ W 111° 16.000′
Maps: USGS – Ousel Falls, Lincoln Mountain, Sunshine Point | Beartooth Publishing – Big Sky Area
Hiking to Cinnamon Mountain is an easy day trip that offers some of the most spectacular views of any hike in the area. Located in the Madison Range of SW Montana near Big Sky, Cinnamon Mountain sits at 9,235 feet and offers panoramic views in all directions.
This out and back hike travels through beautiful forests and scenic meadows in a known grizzly bear habitat. It takes about 4 to 5 hours and covers 8.5 miles and 2670 vertical feet. Bring bear spray. The hike to Cinnamon Mountain is a bit off the beaten path in a well known grizzly bear habitat.
The hike to Cinnamon Mountain starts at the Cinnamon Creek Trailhead. The turnoff is located 10.7 miles south of the main Big Sky turnoff on highway 191. It is on the west side of the road about 100 meters past the Cinnamon Lodge. The turnoff follows a nice dirt road for approximately 0.5 miles. After passing the historic Cinnamon Ranger Station, the trail dead ends at the Cinnamon Creek Trailhead at approximately 6,600 feet.
The only trail leaving the trailhead is the Cinnamon Buck Trail (Trail #6). Immediately there is a sign warning of bears that encourages you to make noise. Carry bear spray.
The Cinnamon Buck Trail meanders through aspen groves, pine forests, and open meadows as it follows Cinnamon Creek. The well graded trail climbs steadily, but it isn’t a calf burner like some other trails in the area, like Storm Castle Peak.
After 2.5 miles you will hit a 4-way trail intersection at approximately 8,250 feet. Take a right turn that heads north onto trail #73, the Cinnamon Lookout Trail or the Cinnamon L.O. Trail as the trail sign reads. A massive tree fell across the trail here and is currently blocking it making it hard to distinguish exactly where this trail is located. Sniff around an you’ll find it.
The Cinnamon Lookout Trail continues uphill through the woods, but quickly opens up into wide open meadows – a definite wildflower haven in the springtime. As you switchback through the open meadows, you will begin to get glimpses of distant peaks like Sphinx Mountain and the Taylor Hilgards. The views only improve as the hike continues.
Finally the trail hits a long East/West ridge and you are only a stones throw from the Cinnamon Mountain Lookout Tower. The Cinnamon Lookout was built in the 1930’s and has been unstaffed by the Forest Service since the 1960’s. It is definitely in need of some structural repairs and a good cleaning.
The Lookout tower sits at the summit of Cinnamon Mountain’s mellow ridge. It’s been well used over the years and due to it’s location offers some of the most fantastic views of any hike in the area. Bring your map or download the PeakFinder app to identify peaks like Lone Mountain, Sphinx Mountain, the entire Taylor Hilgard Range, Sage Peak, Monument Peak, the Spanish Peaks, Lone Mountain, Gallatin Canyon, Ramshorn Peak, neighboring Yellowstone National Park, and many more.
After enjoying the views, it’s time to head back the way you came to get back to the Cinnamon Creek Trailhead. Mia and I hung out for about 20 minutes, but the cold November wind turned us around quickly. I was glad to have my Patagonia Simple Guide Hoody and Simple Guide Pants to keep the wind off.
For Mia and I, the trail was quite muddy and a little bit snowy. As we reentered the woods from the mountain meadows, we noticed massive bear tracks following the trail. The tracks were heading in the same direction that we were going and were accompanied by a small set of tracks.
Obviously we hooted and hollered the whole way down the trail to avoid mama bear and cub. We also heard the distinct howls of wolves in the area – a species that was reintroduced and have made a major, positive impact on the local environment.
Wolves, bears, lookout towers, no people, and outstanding Montana mountain scenery made the hike up Cinnamon Mountain a memorable one. This is one of my favorite hikes that I have been on in the Big Sky area. Highly recommended.
Here are a few additional images from the Cinnamon Mountain Lookout Trail Hike:
Cinnamon Mountain was hiked on November 8, 2014.