Soldier Mountains Overview
The Soldier Mountains are a small range located at the southern edge of extensive central mountains of Idaho. The majority of terrain that is visible from Highway 20 that parallels the range's southern flanks it comprised of mostly barren and windswept slopes. The northern slopes of the peaks are covered in thick evergreen forests and are complicated by winding and endless drainages.
Only about 30 miles in area, the Soldiers sport a number of peakbagging opportunities but only two are noticeably outstanding. Smoky Dome and Iron Mountain dwarf other peaks in the area and are the crowning jewel of the range. These two peaks, as well as a few others make up the western terrain of the Soldiers.
The eastern end of the Soldier Mountains are scenic but not as high and prominent as the western peaks. What these peaks lack in attractive qualities make up for in their creative names. Cannonball Mountain, Sydney Butte, Couch, and Liberal Mountains are all "family hike" type peaks with easily reached summits with rewarding views.
It is important to note that because of the range's prominence, exposure, and location at the edge of the massive Snake River Plain, the winds in this area are some of , if not the most, strong in the state, particularly during winter. The weather station located on the eastern slopes of Smoky Dome commonly recored winds of over 100 MPH during winter snowstorms, keeping in mind that the station is located 500' below the summit.
Canonnball Mountain is located on the eastern end of the Soldier Mountain Range. It is one of the few tree covered summits that create the backdrop to Fairfield, Idaho. Although it has little to offer in the way of scenic qualities itself, the views from the hike to the summit are outstanding. The mountain sits at the edge of the Camas Prairie and has a 360 degree view of the entire plain as well as the entire Soldier Range.
Along with most summits in Idaho, few people ever climb Cannonball Mountain. Its indiscernable summit is most likely crossed by hunters and wanderers by mistake most of the time. Because of the open and easy nature of the terrain in the area, an approach from any direction is plausible with the shortest access point being from nearby Wells Summit.
For access to Cannonball Mountain from Fairfield, Idaho, simply drive north through town following the signs to Soldier Mountain Ski Resort. Continue up the mouth of the Soldier Creek Drainage until coming across a shaprt T in the road.
Turn right on the clearly marked Wells Creek Summit Road. Follow this excellent gravel road a few winding miles to Wells Summit. Either park here or continue up the 4-wheel drive road that continues east up the shoulder of Cannonball Mountain.
Route From Wells Summits
Route Stats (Walk From Summit)
From Wells Summit, choose either to walk or drive the jeep trail that continues east up the shoulder of Cannonball Mountain. Because of the short duration of this particular hike, it is recommended to walk the road.
Follow the road roughly one mile until it peters out at 7,800' Bushwhack north- north-eastward another couple hundred feet until reaching Pt. 8,200'. At this point the remainder of the hike comes into view as well as most of Cannonball Mountain and the Camas Prairie below.
Turn southeast and descend to the saddle between Pt. 8,200' and Cannonball Mountain. Gain the ill-defined northwest ridge of Cannonball Mountain and follow it to the broad and bland summit.
No permits are required.
All surrounding dirt roads care closed during winter. Soldier Creek Road remains open year-round.
Please wear appropriate bright colors during hunting months.
When To Climb
Cannonball Mountain recieves the most visitors during the fall and winter months as a hunting, or back country skiing haven.
The easily accessed Cannonball Mountain in summer turns into a 5 mile snowshoe (one way) in the winter.
Camping is not recommended in this area. The exposure to the elements is not condusive to tent camping.
Any car camping would be limited to the small parking area at Wells Summit.
Best arrangements would be a motel in Fairfield or hotel in nearby Hailey.
As mentioned before, the Soldier Mountains in particular are subject to extreme winter winds. Please check the weather carefully before venturing into this area in the off-season.
One reporting weather station exists in the Soldier Mountain Region. The Soldier Mountain SNOWNET observation is located about a dozen miles east of Cannonball and sits about 1,000' higher than the summit.
These other sites will help provide good local information.