Up until 2006, Aristocrat Peak was home to substantial growth of ponderosa pine forest. The major fires of 2006 that swept through the Pine Ridge, destroyed much of that forest. Much of what was left was destroyed in the 2010 Aristocrat Fire. Still, the peak is accessible to the public, and offers sweeping panoramic views in all directions.
Because of the loss of forestation, less wildlife is seen on the peak, but it still sees migrating deer, pronghorns, and elk. The herds of bighorns that reside in the Pine Ridge may be seen by a lucky hiker probably not more than once or twice a year. There is a cave near the summit, just about the right size for any of the mountain lions that live in the area, and the rocky southern slope would favor sunning rattlesnakes on cool days. Reasonable caution is warranted for those who venture up the slopes of Aristocrat. A rocky "chimney" is the true high point of the peak. But, because of the nature of the soft stone and soil, great caution is important for any who would climb to the top of it.
Getting There & Route
At Road 718, you can park anywhere that will not obstruct other traffic (very rare, as you will see). The hike to peak is 3.2 miles. You can attempt to drive that distance, but be forewarned the road is VERY rough and high clearance 4-wheel drive is a must. Even then, there are times you may find a fallen tree across the road at a location where you cannot just drive around. Hikers are also reminded to be sure to close the livestock gates each time they go through.
There are no trails to the summit, so you will have to bushwhack up. Most of the trees are gone, giving climbers a pretty clear view of their objective above.
Red TapeSince the peak lies on public lands, there is no red tape other than observing camping regulations and state firearms laws.
When to Climb
Aristocrat Peak - Chadron Area Weather
CampingPrimitive camping is allowed on national forest land, but there are no sites along this route. The nearest campground is at Chadron State Park, 3 miles further south on Highway 385. For more information, you can access their web info by clicking here:
Chadron State Park
You can also check with the Chadron Chamber of Commerce for the latest info on in-town camping or lodging.
Resource LinksAristocrat Peak is managed by the Nebraska National Forest Office in Chadron. You can reach them by phone at: (308) 432-0300
You can also access their webpage at: Nebraska National Forest