Rocky Mountain is the highpoint of the Sawtooth Range, a part of Montana's spectacular and wild Rocky Mountain Front, and the highpoint of the entire Bob Marshall Wilderness. That wilderness area is part of a larger complex that includes three extensive contiguous wilderness areas in central Montana: the Bob Marshall, the Great Bear, and the Scapegoat. "The Bob," as the entire area is known to some, is a vast roadless tract that is arguably the wildest and most ruggedly spectacular country in the Lower 48. When you consider that only U.S. 2 divides the Bob from Glacier National Park to its north, you have an almost unbelievable swath of pure wilderness that makes anything else in the Lower 48 outside the Yellowstone ecosystem a comparative joke. By traveling the less-popular corridors, you can spend days out here and probably see more grizzlies than you will other people.
Fortunately for mountaineers, though, Rocky Mountain is accessible without trekking long miles and days to get to it, and it sees little traffic even though the easiest access to it is via a very popular wilderess corridor.
Rocky Mountain will thrill those who long for scenes of wild beauty. The peak sits on the eastern border of the Bob Marshall Wilderness and commands a view that is spectacular in every direction-- the rugged Sawtooth Range north, south, and east; the Great Plains farther east; and the expanse of the Bob as far as you can see to the west. On a clear day like that on which I climbed Rocky Mountain and on other mountaintop days I have enjoyed out here, you can look to the northwest horizon and spot notable Glacier Park peaks such as Mt. St. Nicholas and those of the Two Medicine area.
I first glimpsed Rocky Mountain in July 2003 from the summit of nearby Mount Wright, while driving to the Our Lake trailhead, and while hiking to the lake, but I did not yet appreciate the mountain's beauty. Later on the afternoon of the Our Lake trip, though, my brother and I hiked and climbed to Point 8789, which is a scramble southeast from the saddle west of Our Lake, and it was upon reaching that summit that I beheld the view that became the photo that is this page's primary image. Of the thousands of mountains I've gaped at all over this nation, this one was easily among the most incredible I'd ever beheld, and the solitude I experienced up there atop its neighbor, combined with the sheer wildness of the country around me, inspired me to return and climb Rocky Mountain and stand atop this sentinel guarding all that is truly wild.
About 5 miles north of Choteau on U.S. 89, a paved road indicating skiing and fishing access heads left. Take it. About 17 miles later, take a left turn that shortly crosses the South Fork Teton River and becomes a gravel road. This is the South Fork Teton Road, and you follow it through increasingly pretty scenery for about ten miles to a parking area at its end. Along the way, you will have occasional views of Rocky Mountain to the southwest, and it is also visible through the trees at the parking area. These glimpses will give you some chances to assess conditions on and near the northwest ridge and decide if it suits your tastes. The parking area is about 1 mile past the turnoff for the Mill Falls campground and recreation area. Mill Falls takes only a few minutes to see and is pretty but not heart-stopping. On the right side of the road at the parking area, you will find the trailhead for Headquarters Creek Pass and Our Lake. You will want to head for the pass. These roads are passable for passenger cars.
Red TapeI knew of no red tape as of August 2009, but pay attention to posted signs. Some of the drive to the trailhead passes through or abuts private property, so please respect it.
Because this is grizzly country, you should not hike alone or in the dark. I did hike and climb alone, though, since no one wanted to climb with me. Make noise when the woods are otherwise quiet and when you turn corners on the trail. Pepper spray is a good precaution (make sure you know how to use it first), and it is easy to carry attached to your belt. Some people carry it in their packs, which seems to defeat the purpose. Avoid the ridiculous bells that some people wear in bear country-- they disturb the natural setting and offer no protection against a bear that does get aggressive. Above all, know how to act and react in grizzly country. If you don't read this and understand exactly what I mean, please skip this outing and others in bear country until you do.