Wyoming and Montana, but especially Wyoming, are special places among the Lower 48 in that one can literally walk mere yards from the car and suddenly be immersed in an intact ecosystem that has changed little since the first white people set foot in it. This wilderness character is not only due to the remote and rugged nature of the terrain but also, ironically, to human efforts. Great effort, and not without great controversy at times (think wolves), has gone into protecting and restoring the landscape here to the point that it is in many places just as wild as so much of Alaska is.
Angle Mountain, named for a former owner of the
Togwotee Mountain Lodge, a popular but pricey resort nearby on U.S. 26/287 (but I did enjoy my one stay there), typifies this phenomenon. Even though its summit is not much more than a mile from the nearest paved road (straight-line distance-- the best route to the top is a good bit longer), the approach to it immediately enters terrain where one is more likely to see grizzly tracks than human tracks. In winter, trails on one side of the peak, which is on the border of a federally designated wilderness area, echo with the whine of snowmobiles; on the other side of the peak are the vastness and the deep silence of the Teton Wilderness, where some of the most remote terrain in the Lower 48 exists and where distances are so long that most people out for anything more than a day hike are on horseback.
Thus, in some ways Angle Mountain is a meeting of two worlds. From the summit, one looks south to see a paved highway, but one looks north to see a landscape affected very little by humankind.
That's not all there is to see. How about a sweeping view of the Tetons, only about 25 miles distant, but without all the crowds usually associated with views of the Tetons? How about Gannett Peak-- Wyoming's highest-- the Gros Ventre Range, the Mount Leidy Highlands, and Breccia Peak plus many other peaks of the Southern Absarokas? How about the view north and northwest across country that might not make the postcards but is so rugged and remote that only a handful of people ever explore it? Out there are the headwaters of the mighty Snake and Yellowstone Rivers.
For a summit that someone in good shape can reach in about two hours, there's a lot of reward.
There are two other noteworthy things about Angle Mountain.
First, the true elevation is not officially listed. USGS maps mark a point at 10,566', but that point is a short distance east of the summit. The actual highpoint crosses the 10,600 contour but does not reach the 10,640 one. Thus, the elevation of 10,620' here is an estimate based on the mean of the two contour lines. My GPS device gave me an elevation of 10,647'.
Second, Angle Mountain is a geological departure from the Absaroka Range in that the exposed rock on it is limestone, not the volcanic rock that dominates most of the Absarokas. Some might even argue that is not part of the Absarokas proper, but no other parent range fits at all. In Guide to the Wyoming Mountains and Wilderness Areas
, Orrin and Lorraine Bonney have the peak in the Absaroka Range chapter, in the subsection for the Upper Yellowstone River.
Getting There and Route Information
Finding the Trailhead
About 5 miles west of Togwotee Pass on U.S. 26/287 (I am sorry to say that I forgot to note the exact mileage), look for a sign indicating the Holmes Cave Trail and turn north onto a dirt road accessing the trailhead. This road is between the Lost Lake turnoff and the Togwotee Lodge, so use them as turnaround points if you miss the road the first time around. When dry, this short, bumpy road that ends in just about 0.3 miles is passable for most vehicles; I have driven a Toyota Corolla up it without a problem. If conditions are muddy, though, use the parking area on the right that you encounter just seconds after turning onto the road. At the end of the road, there is an old outhouse; a true historic relic, it actually has a crescent moon carved into it. There is a board here with wilderness information, and this is the trailhead.
From the trailhead at about 8840’, hike the trail to a divide on the boundary of the Teton Wilderness at 10,200’. This hike covers approximately 2.5 miles, and along the way you will hike through lush meadows stuffed with wildflowers. This is also prime grizzly country, and on one visit out here, my party saw several fresh tracks in the vicinity of the divide. So be alert, make noise, and know what to do if you do encounter a bear. That is all I will say, as I feel anyone not knowing exactly what I mean ought not to be out here in the first place.
The trail is not shown on the USGS Togwotee Pass quad, but it is definitely there and in good shape, as the hike to Holmes Cave is a fairly popular one for this area.
From the divide, now at timberline, you will follow the wilderness boundary west along ridges to the summit, a distance of about two miles. Even without a good map, it would be almost impossible to get off track. And even then, numerous posts designating the wilderness boundary
mark the route almost all the way to the summit.
First, there is an unavoidable drop of about 150' and then a climb up a ridge to a minor summit a little over 10,400', where you get your first view of Angle Mountain's summit. Then, it is easy walking, with some ups and downs but nothing too bad, to the base of the summit.
There, you encounter the only "complication" of the route, and not much of one at that. The ridge narrows to a rugged stretch of limestone blocking easy progress. Instead, drop a short distance and hike through a talus slope on the south side of the ridge. When the limestone cliffs end and you can just hike up to the summit, do so, or scramble up the cliffs (Class 3 at least) for a more direct (and fun) finish.
So in all, you are looking at 4.5 miles to the summit, with 1800' of car-to-summit elevation gain, though the ups and downs will put the real total somewhere closer to 2000-2100'. It's not any harder than Class 2 unless you want to sprinkle in some cliff scrambling at the end (recommended).
Red Tape, Camping, Links
There was no red tape affecting access or climbing in August 2011. A multi-year construction project on the highway caused delays of up to 30 minutes, so it is even more important than usual to get out here early.
This is prime grizzly country. We found several fresh tracks while out here, and sightings of the great bear in this area are common. Store food properly, try to avoid being out at dark and in other low-light conditions, travel with others if possible, make noise, and consider carrying pepper spray (a canister typically costs $50-70).
The nearest campground, Falls, is about 15-20 miles southwest off U.S. 26/287. This is a large campground and is operated by Shoshone National Forest.
For more information on campgrounds and regulations: Shoshone National Forest