Garfield Mountain is situated neatly in the very southwest corner of Montana. The neighboring Lima Peaks share the skyline with Garfield making this an attractive area to explore.
This southwest corner of Montana is high desert sagebrush country. However, you will find plenty of irrigated crop land and cattle as the Lima and Clark Canyon reservoirs provide water for the area grain growers and cattle wranglers. Although this country is lightly populated it is an active transportation corridor linking southwest Montana and the larger cities of eastern Idaho.
Garfield offers up large high country meadows, minimal forested terrain, and predatory birds riding the thermals looking for their next meal.
As with most high peaks, one can appreciate the views from Garfield's summit. One entry in the summit register indicated that the Tetons could be seen on what must have been a very clear day. The best view was a straight shot through a gap in the Beaverheads to the west where you could see Idaho's Bell Mountain (11612') perfectly framed.
Lima Peak 10706'
The three main Lima Peaks running west to east are 10706', 10060', and 10388'. The highest Lima summit is just over 2 miles away via the connecting ridge from Garfield making both peaks a very doable one day option.
Garfield and the Lima Peaks may be on the overlooked side, but certainly not undervalued in what they have to offer.
From I-15 take exit 15 at Lima. Take the short paved access road that runs parallel to I-15 on its west side. Turn onto Little Sheep Creek Road and follow the signs to the East Fork campground. The initial sign says 8 miles to the campground and that is close enough to be accurate. You will find a sign at every junction on your way to the East Fork campground.
Garfield, Lima Peaks, Red Conglomerate Peaks Garfield & Red Conglomerate Peaks
Just prior to the campground there is a mining road off to your left that crosses the creek on a narrow bridge. This road will provide a closer jumping off point for your start. It gradually narrows and becomes more of an ATV road and you can pick your best spot to park. This mining road forks once, just stay on the main track which will be to the right.
Summit RoutesNW Ramp
Whether you are driving or hiking, follow the mining road up. Shortly past the point where the road drops sharply 10 feet to cross the stream, a small meadow will appear on your right which is flanked by two forested ridges. Looking up the meadow you can see Garfield clearly through this gap. This is your key landmark and the only meadow with this feature.
If you look at Quad 12 on Topozone, the small stream that runs due south right through the middle of the Quad is the one. Expect this stream to be dry or just a trickle as the season lengthens.
There is a light trail here through the meadow and just continue all the way up between these two forested ridges to the top of the saddle. The view opens up here with the NW ramp straight ahead. Follow it up to the high saddle and then make the final effort up to the summit.
Difficulty: Class 2
Elevation gain: 3600' to 3900'
Mileage: 3 to 3.8 (one way)
Both elevation gain & mileage will vary depending on where you start.
OptionsLima Peak 10706'
From the summit of Garfield, the route via the connecting ridge is plain and laid out right in front of you. The distance from Garfield to Lima is about 2.1 miles. A very short boulder section on the way down to the saddle below Lima was a mild Class 3, but even that could have been avoided by dropping below it.
Garfield - Lima ridge
Difficulty: Class 2
Elevation loss: 1200'
Elevation gain: 1050'
After doing a start to finish loop, I would recommend doing Garfield first and then Lima.
Expect roughly a 9 mile day for a round trip.
Local Flavor & Observations
The 1922 benchmark on Garfield is the oldest one I have run across.
I was surprised to find that for late July I was the first to sign the summit register in 2007 on both Garfield and Lima.
Found Rick Baugher's signature in the summit register on Lima from June of 1997. To paraphrase his comments: 'I am sure there are greater things in life than climbing mountains, however I have yet to discover what they are'. Not escaping my notice was his note indicating that Lima was summit #552.
Watching an eagle lift off from a 9000' meadow only fifty feet away from you with that wingspan is an impressive sight.
The Lima Peaks Ranch is up for sale. Easily seen on the descent of the highest Lima summit, it is going for a cool $16.9 million. The living room boasts the largest single pane of glass (33' x 10') in North America.
Try Jan's Cafe in Lima for a meal. It is a friendly, cozy place and they serve an excellent cheeseburger. The back of the menu in Jan's says that Lima is pronounced like lima bean.
East Fork campground is close and an excellent base camp. Both Garfield and Lima can be seen from the campground. The stay limit is 16 days. Additionally, there is no fee to camp. I couldn't find a USFS pay box anywhere.
Lima Peak 10388'