Bear Peak is located in the scenic Smoky Mountains in central Idaho and is one of the, if not the most
, isolated peak in the range. The terrain surrounding Bear Peak is rugged and unforgiving, full of thick brush and rarely visited.
Bear Peak is located 5 miles east of the main Smoky Mountain crest and 11 miles west of Ketchum and Sun Valley. It sits at the head of Barr Gulch and the East Fork of Thompson Creek, just north of the massive Warm Springs drainage. Its isolation from other peaks and terrain renders most hikers blind to the summit of this mountain. A trail passes just south of the summit, however, guessing based on the size of the summit cairn, a matter of only 10-15 people have ever made the ascent.
To reach Bear Peak does not require technical climbing skills as the summit is rounded and no major obstacles block the primary route. All that is needed is perseverance and a knowledge of wildlife etiquette for a day on Bear Peak.
I am not fully aware of the reasoning behind the name "Bear Peak," but can only guess it would be from the large presence of wildlife in the area, including, of course, black bears.
Getting There and Summiting
From Ketchum, drive west on Warm Springs Road past the subdivisions and chairlifts to where the road turns to dirt. Drive roughly twelve miles on an improved dirt road to Barr Gulch Road, marked by a brown sign that says FS (forest service) 019. From the turnoff, it is a 1.2 mile drive up Barr Gulch Road to the trailhead on a dirt road that does not require four wheel drive.
A well marked trail leads from a small parking area further up Barr Gulch. The trail slowly switchbacks out of the canyon shortly from the trailhead and onto Bear Peak's southwest ridge.
2.5 miles from the trailhead Barr Gulch Trail will lead to a point just southwest of Bear Peak's summit. Leave the trail here and enjoy the half-mile, class 2 walk up to the summit.
No red tape.
When To Climb
Snow free climbing up Bear Peak is probable anywhere from june to september depending on the season. A winter climb would not be dangerous and is not out of the question. Warm Springs road is plowed to within 4 miles of the turnoff for Barr Gulch all winter long.
Many pullouts for camping, and desginated spots are located along Warm Springs Road and provide ideal camping conditions.
This is very wild country and weather can be extreme (the day I climbed two inches of hail had accumulated from a storm the day before), even more so than other areas of Idaho so be sure to up and out early and the weather conditions can be as different as day and night from Ketchum to Bear Peak.