“Easy skiing with super-quick access from Bozeman!
— Gary Hellenga
Type: Backcountry or Sidecountry
This trail crosses State Lands, and a State Lands recreation permit is required (get one, good for a year, at any fishing license outlet for $10).
"Little Ellis" is the prominent fore-peak seen from the north when looking toward Mount Ellis (which is behind, and obscured by, Little Ellis).
From town, drive east on Kagy/Bozeman Trail, then south on Mt Ellis Lane, just west of Mt Ellis Academy. At the end of the public road, park parallel on either side of road (continuation of road is marked as Private Property). The gate at the trailhead is marked with a sign. Be sure to close the gate.
The first mile is across open "flats" that can be wind-blown and icy if no recent snowfall. This area is deceptive, as it is actually steeper than the skin track you use once you get onto the slopes of Little Ellis! Watch for dog bombs in this section, as it is heavily used! This section can be trying on the return trip, too, if snow cover is lacking.
From the gate, head SSW directly toward the peak of Little Ellis. Just shy of the one-mile mark, you'll enter the trees and encounter a fork in the road. Take the left fork, heading along the stream draining the NE side of Little Ellis. Shortly, you'll cross the creek and begin a more gradual climb along the road E to SE along the NE slopes of the hill. As you rise, you'll get good views of the Bridger Range across the valley to the north.
Just before the two-mile mark, you'll pass a small saddle and enter the upper western slopes of the Bear Canyon drainage, with good views to Chestnut Mountain to the east. The trail continues upward, then hits a switchback back to the north just past the two-mile point.
After another bit to the south, another switchback will take you north again. When you hit the next turn to the south, you can opt to ski down, or continue another half-mile south on the road to try the slopes on the eastern side of Little Ellis. If you head downhill from this point (or skin across to the open glade to your west, to avoid the trees and brush), you'll drop back to pick up the skin track for another lap, or to return to the trailhead.