OverviewColter Peak is a rugged and obscure peak located in the southeast region of Yellowstone National Park. The peak is located near the south end of the southeast arm of Yellowstone Lake, and is visible from much of the Thorofare region of the park's southeast quarter. The peak is named after John Colter, the famous hunter and fur trader who was one of the first explorers of the Yellowstone area.
Getting ThereYellowstone National Park occupies the northwest corner of Wyoming, as well as small portions of southern Montana and eastern Idaho. There are five major roads entering the park:
The North entrance at Gardiner Montana is the only entrance which remains open during the winter. Refer to the Operating Hours & Seasons page for complete details on road opening and closing dates in the park.
West Entrance - Highway 20 through West Yellowstone, MT
North Entrance - Highway 89 through Gardiner, MT
Northeast Entrance - Highway 212 through Cooke City, MT
East Entrance - Highway 20 through Cody, WY
South Entrance - Highway 89 through Grand Teton NP
Additional information can be found on the Yellowstone Plan Your Visit web page.
Red TapeYellowstone Entry Fees
Entering Yellowstone National Park requires purchase of a $25 7-day pass, available at any of the five entry stations entering the park. This pass allows entry into both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park to the south. Alternatively, an annual America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass may be purchased for $80. This pass provides access to, and use of, Federal recreation sites that charge an entrance or amenity Fee, for a period of one year.
A backcountry camping permit is required for all overnight trips into the Yellowstone backcountry. Backcountry camping permits may be reserved in advance for a $20 fee. Backcountry permits may also be obtained on a walk-in basis, (subject to availability) no more than 48 hours prior to the hike - there is no charge for walk-in permits.
Permits may be obtained from most ranger stations in the park. When picking up backcountry permits you will be required to view a short video on regulations and safe travel in the Yellowstone backcountry. The Yellowstone Backcountry Camping & Hiking page contains complete details and regulations on backcountry trips in the park.
Backcountry camping spots in the immediate vicinity of Colter Peak include 5E1, 6B4, 6B1, 6B2, 6C1, and 6C3. Any of these sites will require a minimum of 15 miles of hiking to reach from the east entrance highway.
Camping and LodgingThere are numerous options for camping within Yellowstone National Park. Regulations and available facilities varies among the campgrounds. Visit the Campgrounds in Yellowstone page for complete details.
There are also a number of lodging facilities within the park, ranging from rustic cabins to luxurious lodges and inns. Lodging in Yellowstone is administered by Xanterra Parks & Resorts, the primary concessioner in Yellowstone. Refer to their website for complete details on locations, reservations, etc.
Bear PrecautionsBoth grizzly and black bears are found in the park. Several of the most important precautions for safe travel in bear country include the following:
Visit Yellowstone's Minimizing the Dangers of a Bear Encounter web page for additional information on hiking in bear country.
When to ClimbSnow free climbing of Colter Peak can be found during a fairly limited timeframe from approximately July through September, although this may vary considerably depending on weather conditions.
Winter attempts of Colter Peak will involve considerably more effort, particularly just to reach a normal summer trailhead. While an approach by skis or snowshoes is possible, this would entail a long multi-day approach.
Weather and ClimateYellowstone's weather is characterized by its unpredictability. Always be prepared with warm clothing and rain gear, even on warm and sunny summer days.
Weather related links:
South Ridge RouteDue to the remote nature of this peak, I've elected to post a route description in the main page, rather than a separate route. Other routes certainly exist, so feel free to post them and I will modify this section accordingly. There are no trails on this peak, so please climb the peak by a route before posting.
In addition to the South Ridge, the West Ridge also appears to offer a relatively easy approach to the summit.
This route ascends the prominent south ridge to the summit of the peak. Backcountry campsites 6C1 and 6C3 are the most strategically located for an ascent by this route. As mentioned above, this is a route, not a trail, so a certain amount of climbing over downed trees, bushwhacking, and general routefinding will be encountered.
Leave the Thorofare trail a short distance south of backcountry campsite 6C1, and begin ascending the mostly sage-covered slope to access the ridge. The amount of bushwhacking and downed tree hopping to be encountered will depend on the location chosen for departure from the Thorofare trail.
Follow the ridge upwards as it passes over a series of large "steps", consisting of mostly open high meadows. Occasional navigation is required to pass over downed timber, but the going is generally easy.
At approximately 10,000 feet the base of a large buttress is reached. This buttress is bypassed with relatively little difficulty by temporarily leaving the south ridge and passing around the buttress at its base on the left (west) side.
While passing around the buttress the summit ridge and summit will return to view. Make a long northward traverse to regain the summit ridge at a suitable location. The terrain is steep and rocky, passing over several loose gullies, but otherwise presents no major obstacles.
Upon regaining the summit ridge, it is a simple matter of ridge walking and boulder hopping to reach the summit.
Round-trip hiking distance - ±6.0 miles
(from Thorofare trail)
Elevation gain - ±2,830 feet
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