McCullough Peak is the highest mountain in the McCullough Peak Badlands east of Cody, Wyoming. The top of this mountain is covered with communication towers, and is therefore reachable by a very good dirt road and a short quarter-mile scramble; this makes it a poor climbing objective, but the views of the surrounding area and Peak 6442 are well worth making the trip. The summit elevation is 6547 feet, and it is shown by a BLM summit marker just outside the fence on the west end of the enclosed tower area. This summit's prominence is 1,277 feet, which ranks #125 in Wyoming. If you look east from the top, you will see the McCullough Benchmark, which is slightly lower at 6513 feet.
Getting ThereTo reach the top of McCullough Peak, start by heading east from Cody on Highway 14/16/20. Start marking miles at the place where Highway 120 turns south towards Meeteetse and continue on Highway 14/16/20 for 4.7 miles. Turn left on McCullough Peaks Road and start heading into the badlands. There are several roads marked by small red signs with numbers on them that turn off the main road to the left, but stay on the main road if you want to reach the top. After 5.0 miles you will reach a gate, which was standing open the afternoon I was up there; after crossing through the gate, continue on for 2.8 miles to reach the high point of the road. There is a small parking area on the left side of the road before it starts going around the back of the mountain.
Hike back up the road for a hundred feet and start heading up the ridge towards the tower. After about a quarter mile and 150 feet of elevation gain, you will be on top, where there is a summit marker sticking up about two feet out of the ground right next to the fence.
Red TapeThere are no access fees to enter the McCullough Wilderness. The sign system marking access to roads was overhauled in 2004, and as a result, the roads are very clearly marked; there are more than 230 miles of roads marked with white arrows that are open to motorized travel, 20+ miles of roads open to ATV and non-motorized travel, 30 miles of administrative roads, and 60 miles of existing roads that are now permanently closed. Roads that enter this area from the south via Highway 14/16/20 are generally easy and don't require 4WD until you are several miles in, while the roads entering from the north from the Willwood District south of Powell need high clearance 4WD and very good judgment on the part of the driver to avoid getting into places where it is impossible to continue or turn around. The entire badlands area is prone to flash flooding which can quickly make travel impossible in places, so keep an eye on the canyon west of Cody to gauge the approach of any storms.
All it takes is one look at this harsh rocky environment covered in sagebrush to know that this is prime rattlesnake country! They like to sunbathe on the rocks and curl up in the brush, so it is not uncommon to have close encounters with snakes that are on or next to the trail. Be extremely careful when hiking anywhere that is off of the road or trail because of the abundance of sagebrush; a slower pace will allow you to listen for the rattle, and will also give the snake a chance to leave as it senses your approach. Make sure you know how to look for them and how to act around these animals, in addition to knowing what to do if you are bitten by one (see link below).
Be sure to bring in enough water to drink, as suitable drinking water is not found in the badlands.
CampingCamping is allowed in the McCullough Wilderness, with a maximum stay of 14 days in any 28-day period. For more information, visit the BLM camping rules page at:
External LinksInformation on the McCullough wild horse herd:
Horse Tour Information:
What to do in case of a Rattlesnake bite: