The Skyline Trail roughly follows the ridgeline up to the summit of Badger Mountain, then back down to meet the Sagebrush Trail and the Langdon Trail at the Triple Junction. The graved path is 3.5 feet wide and popular with hikers, runners, mountain bikers and equestrians. The trail has mostly sagebrush at both ends with native dryland grasses in the middle. Balsamroot and purple sagebrush can be found blossoming in the spring.
In 2006, WTA helped the Friends of Badger Mountain build the first 2.1 miles of the Skyline Trail. The initial 30-inch wide section was dug out, by hand, in one weekend! WTA also helped the Friends of Badger Mountain extend the trail in the spring of 2010 while helping build the Sagebrush Trail.
From the kiosk in the Westgate parking lot, head down the Skyline Trail for about half a mile to the junction with the Langdon Trail leading to the right. Continue straight down the Skyline Trail, passing a service road and near a house as you head to the north side of Badger. Watch the landscape transition from scattered sagebrush to mostly dryland grasses with bountiful balsamroot in the spring.
Hike up a few switchbacks, and just past the 0.75-mile marker, you will find a monument along the trail marking the maximum height of the ancient Lake Lewis during the Ice Age Floods. Lake Lewis was the gigantic temporary lake formed by the great Missoula Floods 11,000 years ago. When it was full, Badger Mountain, as well as Candy, Red and Rattlesnake Mountains to the northwest, would have all been islands in the massive lake.
The trail crosses another service road at 1.3 miles, switching to the south side of Badger Mountain. On the south side of the ridge, the wind deposited soil is thinner and the springtime sun dries the soil out faster than on the north side, thus the vegetation is comparatively sparser and mostly grasses.
Continue along the contours, slowly gaining elevation to the trail’s high point just below the radio towers. At the junction, you may opt to take a left onto the Canyon Trail for another 40 feet of elevation gain to the summit of Badger Mountain for the best views.
To continue on the Skyline Trail, keep going straight at the junction. Gradually descend past another Ice Age Floods monument, and take in the view to the southeast. Cross the service road one more time, and follow along mature sagebrush to the Triple Junction with the Langdon and Sagebrush Trails.
From here, you can retrace your steps back to the Westgate parking lot for a total of about 6 miles of hiking. The Langdon trail to the right will also take you back to the Westgate parking lot with about the same distance. Another option is to make a loop back to Badger Mountain using the Sagebrush Trail and the Canyon Trail, and then follow the Skyline Trail back to the Westgate parking lot. This option will put you at about 6.6 miles total.