It is far from being the highest, most famous, or most difficult summit in Greater Yellowstone, but there is nothing ordinary about the views from this pretty little peak in the Mount Leidy Highlands, an extensive area of forested mountains, badlands-type hills, and rushing streams.
The 360-degree panorama takes in countless peaks of Greater Yellowstone, especially in the Absaroka and Gros Ventre Ranges. The scene-stealing view, however, is unquestionably to the west, where the full length of the Teton Range is on display across the flats of Jackson Hole. The angle on the mountains is no different from what you find when you drive through Grand Teton National Park, but this perspective has two distinct advantages: first, if possible, the peaks, especially the Cathedral Group and Mount Moran, seem even more massive than they do from the road (perhaps this is because Jackson Hole seems so far below you but the peaks are still obviously higher than you are); and second, while you usually have to share the roadside Teton views with dozens of other people, atop Mount Leidy, you do not. This view of the Tetons is arguably the world’s best view (and a very secluded one at that) of the Teton Range not found from the Tetons themselves.
So you get stellar views from an isolated peak in a remote area, all at the price of just a short, steep hike. This peak is thus a great early-morning climb and leaves you time and energy for something else in the area during the afternoon.
Mount Leidy's conical profile is easily seen from much of the highway through Grand Teton National Park, but most people probably pay little attention to it because they are too busy staring at the Tetons to the west. The mountain is also easily seen from many of the Absaroka Range summits in the Togwotee Pass area; from those summits, the peak stands out from its surroundings and is one of few prominent highpoints between the Absarokas and the Tetons.
In 1872, the Hayden Survey named Mount Leidy; the title honors Professor Joseph Leidy, a scientist who made important contributions to botany, parasitology, and paleontology and was also "preeminent in the study of human anatomy" (the source for this information, including the direct quotation, is Thomas Turiano's Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone.
The Teton Range Views
Using Thomas Turiano's Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone as my source, I present the following as the shortest approach to Mount Leidy. The directions are paraphrased from that source, but parts in bold are my own, based on my observations and measurements.
About eight miles east of Moran Junction along U.S. 26/287, the Blackrock Ranger Station is on the south side of the road. Just before (west of) the station are a dirt road and a sign for Hatchet Campground (a Forest Service campground). A short distance from the turnoff but not obvious from the main road is a board indicating driving distances to various locations.
The approach is close to 16 miles on dirt roads. The last four miles are rocky, but they are passable to low-clearance vehicles.
The photographs below show the three major intersections along the way.
The Turiano book says you should park here and hike up the increasingly rocky and rutted road for a mile to a saddle about a mile away, but you might instead consider driving up the road as far as you feel comfortable doing. Personally, I believe a careful driver could get a low-clearance vehicle through that last mile in dry conditions, but I chose to park 0.3 mi up the road where there was a good turnaround point.
The Turiano guide says it is 2.5 miles from Leidy Lake to the saddle (see above); my GPS track gave me 1.9.
Leidy Lake is at 8720'. The saddle is at about 9200'. The going from saddle to summit is somewhere between the good trail conditions of Class 1 and the off-trail hiking of Class 2. If there's a such thing as 1+, that's what the route is.
From the saddle, follow a trail, sometimes faint or nonexistent, to the summit for about a mile. It is sometimes very steep, but it is still just a hike.
There are no fees or permits required. Obey posted signs for private property. This is bear country (both black and grizzly), so know and follow the protocol for visiting bear country.
At Blackrock Ranger Station, there is Hatchet Campground. The charge is $10 a night (that is as of July 2009), running water and pit toilets are available, and the sites are first-come, first-served only.
Dispersed camping is widely available unless expressly prohibited in a specific location. Follow regulations about fires and food storage.
Backcountry camping is free, and no permits are necessary.
Bridger-Teton National Forest