Peak 8639 is situated just south of Dead Indian Pass atop Wyoming's Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, and overlooks Sunlight Basin, which is one of the most visually spectacular areas in Wyoming. Though not exceptionally high compared with its many neighbors that top 10,000 feet, this mountain is easily visible from a large part of the North Big Horn Basin. This mountain is one of the many peaks in the Northern Absarokas that are ranked but have no name to attached to them; from below, the summit looks forested, but it actually has a nice open ridge on top that affords some wonderful views of the surrounding area.
The rugged pass near this mountain is where Chief Joseph led his band of Nez Perce Indians as they were being pursued the U.S. military in 1877. From Thomas Turiano's Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone:
"The name 'Dead Indian' derives specifically from one or two incidents on an 8,600 foot mountain northwest of Cody, Wyoming. In 1878, General Miles attacked a small war party of Bannock Indians near today's Clark, Wyoming. The Indians retreated on a historic route over this high ridge, known today as Dead Indian Hill and Dead Indian Pass. Near the top of the pass, the defeated left behind a wounded warrior, who was scalped the following day by Crow scouts. Another legend recounts that a group of prospectors killed an Indian in a skirmish and propped up his body to warn other Indians of their intent to explore the territory at all costs. The name 'Dead Indian' then propagated gradually from Dead Indian Hill to Dead Indian Pass to Dead Indian Creek and finally to Dead Indian Peak."
Peak 8639 has 379 feet of prominence, and is the 1750th-highest mountain in the state of Wyoming.
Getting There and Hiking Information
From Cody, WY, take Highway 120 north for almost 17 miles and turn left on the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. After driving for about 11 or 12 miles, you will pass the turnoff to the Northwest College Field Camp; drive a ways past this as the highway drops slightly through a large open area before heading around to the right to the top of the pass. Turn left on Forest Road 103 (not signed) and park.
Begin your hike on a faint road marked 1002C on the map; this road is closed to vehicle traffic. Continue up the road until it turns left and stays level, after which you will bushwhack up over 400 vertical feet of forest. The final steep slope to the top is open, and the high point is located near the left (south) side of the summit ridge.
A round trip on Peak 8639 is about 1.5 miles with about 850 feet of elevation gain, which makes it a nice short outing that is just right for bagging a peak while getting some exercise and some nice views. I did this mountain in the winter on snowshoes; expect some deep snow in the trees!
Red TapeThere are no fees or permits needed to hike, climb or camp in this area. This peak is located in the Shoshone National Forest; even though you aren't going far from the road, this area is known for its numerous grizzly population, so come prepared with bear spray and know how to use it!
External LinksShoshone National Forest
Wikipedia entry for the Shoshone National Forest
Peak 8639 on listsofjohn.com