OverviewRound trip distance: approx 28 miles
Elevation gain: approx 4500'
Difficulty: Class 3
We learned about this route in the Highpointers Club newsletter, 2nd quarter, 1992. Although it is less popular than the standard route, it may be an easier climb. It has been said that, "an agile dog could make it." And in fact, a dog did summit on 8/7/14, with a little help. The main danger in this route is the loose rock in the couloir that is the crux of the climb. Various family members including myself attempted the route in 1998 and 2000, but were stopped short of the summit both times by bad weather. Many thanks to various SP members who have contributed valuable information on this page, via comments or external reports. Read splattski's 2007 Trip Report here.
And don't miss Steve Eckert's excellent route page on climber.org. Steve provides detailed maps and waypoints on this Class 3 route.
Also see the 2013 discussion on the Idaho Summits forum Granite Peak car-to-car in a day?
Allow two days for round trip, plus a day to sit out bad weather if necessary. One way distance from trailhead to summit, depending on your exact route (much of this route is off-trail) is about 13-14 miles.
The entire approach is scenic and wild. It features alpine meadows bursting with flowers in the summer, extensive boulder hopping, a couple long hills, and more than one significant stream crossing. Come prepared -- it will excite you and wear you out!
Getting to this trailhead seems to be the most difficult piece of route finding.
(Last updated September 2008, with thanks to SP member jimboa From Cooke City, drive east a little less than 2 miles, to Lulu Pass Road. The distance on Lulu Pass Road to your turnoff is about 2.3 miles. You should go straight past a large gravel quarry. Continue on the main road past several spur roads until you cross the Fisher Creek bridge (note the old mill on your right). A good landmark for parking is where the Goose Creek Jeep Trail branches off to the right. You can park here, but it is about 1/2 mile to the real trailhead.
Turn hard-right immediately after the bridge on a rough road that passes above the old mill. Continue past an old shack, and across a creek (or walk this short section). The trailhead for Lady of the Lake is well marked and there is space for parking. The trailhead is to the left.
The Long Approach
When you come to a creek crossing/junction, proceed due north up Zimmer Creek, cross it to the east, then climb the long, steep "Heartbreak Hill" until you reach Lower Aero Lake.
Once at the lake, there is no longer a real trail. You can choose the north side or the south side of the lake. The north route is more direct and easier, but requires a stream crossing above the lake. The south route is slower, but features a fascinating, balanced rock along the way. Consider camping at Upper Aero Lake. Be prepared for the goats.
Continue along the south and east sides of Upper Aero Lake. Northeast of the lake, climb a few hundred feet to the saddle. Here you get your first glimpse of Granite Peak -- and an impressive peak it is from here. You cannot see the crux of your route yet, however. Cross the flat valley and hike three more miles to the base of the Peak.
Alternate approach: When you reach the creek crossing/junction, cross the creek and go downstream on a good path along Broadwater River. After about a mile, the trail turns and heads up Sky Top Creek. Follow the intermittent trail to Lone Elk Lake in about 5.5 miles. From Lone Elk, follow the open terrain into the upper basin. Pass Rough Lake on the south, then shortcut over the ridge to the north to gain Sky Top Lakes. Stay on the west side of the lakes as you rejoin the previously-described route (see the map in the Images section).
From the valley southwest of Granite Peak, aim for the lower right corner of a massive slab on the southwest face. Scramble up the talus to the base of the slab. Traverse to the left along the base of the slab. At the left edge is a hidden couloir. Finding this couloir is the key to the route. Scramble up the couloir on the loose, steep rock, being ultra careful not to rain boulders down on your fellow climbers below. Most of the couloir is straight-forward. At the top, you will be in a steep amphitheater. Move to climber's right for the easiest terrain. When you gain the ridge, move up and watch for a traverse to the left that keeps the scrambling easy. If it's 4th class, you are off route.
Essential GearHelmet, waterproof hiking boots, rain gear, strong tent, containers to protect food from bears and goats, extra time and food to wait out the prevalent storms. Ice ax and crampons may be necessary in the couloir, depending on conditions.
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