OverviewSee the Main Page of Gem County for an Overview
Getting ThereThere appears to be at least 3 different ways to access Peak 7,971. One is from Cascade Reservoir. Another is from Snowbank Mountain. The route I chose is from the southwest up Poison Creek. Any 2WD vehicle should be able to get to the trailhead unless there is snow on the road.
To find the Poison Creek trailhead, you first have to find the little town of Ola. Ola is about 9 miles north of Hwy 52 between Emmett and Horseshoe Bend. About 9 miles west of Horseshoe Bend is a signed turnoff for Ola. A good landmark in Ola is the little historic church on the south end of town. From this church go north through town 0.3 miles and then take the left fork onto road 618. The road is still paved here but it will soon turn to gravel. At 5.4 miles the road splits with the right fork crossing a little bridge. Take the left fork instead of crossing the bridge. At 11.1 miles road 618 comes back from the right and joins the road you are on and it is road 618 again. Continue straight ahead. At 16.2 miles, stay left. At 21.1 miles, go right towards Third Fork Guard Station on road 625. At 26.8 miles turn left onto road 646. At 30.5 miles there is a left fork that goes uphill from the main road. Follow this up a couple hundred yards to where it ends. If you miss this turn and find the end of the road instead in about .7 miles, turn around and come back to this turnoff.
Where this road ends there is a sign saying motor vehicles are prohibited from going further. There is also a sign indicating this is Poison Creek Trail No. 134. There is a fire ring here if you wanted to camp for the night. There is only parking for a couple of cars here. Make sure you park off the road to let others pass. Elevation here is about 5,870 ft.
Route DescriptionThe route follows an old roadbed for a ways. The trail is easy to follow. The trail goes about 200 yards and then follows a switchback up to the right. In another couple of hundred yards you get to a wide open area and the trail leaves this area on the left side and should be easy to see and follow the trail. In another quarter mile or so, the trail comes to Poison Creek and there is a nice wooden bridge across the Creek.
The trail stays on the southeast side of Poison Creek as it climbs up through areas that are relatively open with lots of wildflowers and clumps of trees. The trail climbs directly towards Peak 7971 and doesn’t have too many twists and turns that add mileage. There are many branches off the main trail made by the local cows. Sometimes it is difficult to determine, which is the real trail and which is the cow trail. Remember you want to continue going up, don’t go down to the creek. You will pass a few salt licks as you climb and these areas are pretty beat up by the cows.
Continue up the slope and after gaining about 1,200 ft where the trees have thinned considerably and in spots you can see for a long ways up the slope. You may even catch a glimpse of the summit from here. The trail seems to peter out in this area. Take a look around and select a landmark or tree that you will recognize on the way back. Find a cow trail that heads up and continue climbing up the slope, picking your way where the footing is best. Avoid the brush that grows in the creek bottom. Remember that under the tree clumps, the cows have stomped down all the brush and it is easy to walk under the trees.
Eventually, at about 7,300 ft you can definitely see the summit if you are on track and just head directly towards the summit. There are fields here covered with wildflowers and it is not very steep. This is nice and scenic. I didn’t hear any music or see Julie Andrews, but you can imagine that the “hills are alive with the sound of music”.
The summit has been decorated by someone to be a memorial of some kind. I didn’t find a register or benchmark. Head back down the same way you came up. Hopefully, you noted a landmark or two to get you back to the trail. Total hike is about 5.7 miles, elevation gain is about 2,100 ft, and it took me about 3 hours for the full hike.