Gospel Peak is one of the highest points along the Salmon/Clearwater divide. Along with Pyramid Peak, it anchors the western portion of the Gospel Hump Wilderness
of the Nez Perce National Forest
. This primitive area is approximately 206,000 acres and forms part of a 4.3 million acre wilderness block with the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness. It is the site of many subalpine glacial lakes, many of which support great trout fishing. The area is an easy day trip from Grangeville or provides excellent back country hiking and camping. The summit can be grouped with nearby Pyramid Peak for an easy double climb.
Four states can be seen from the top including the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon, Bitterroots of Montana and the Blue Mountains and prairies of southeast Washington. On a clear day one can see deep into the Payette Mountains to the south and the mountains of the St. Joe River basin to the north.
The granite and quartz peak is generally an easy walk up, but challenging climbs can be found on certain parts of the mountain. The cliffs north of the peak that form the source of Burnt Creek also contain technical rocks. Road 444 makes this high country very easily accessible, but those wanting the whole deal can hike up Slate Creek on the 313 trail, which leaves the 444 road approximately two miles east of the 221 junction. Once on this path, follow it south for approximately 3 miles to the base of the peak. Leave the path and head straight up the main ridge west of the peak. The climb from the bottom of Slate Creek to the top is roughly 3,000 vertical feet.
From Highway 95, turn east into Grangeville and continue a long mile on main street (Highway 13) to the east edge of town. Town ends abruptly at the old Forest Service office on the northeast corner of the intersection of Highway 13 and the Mt. Idaho Grade road. The Forest Service office is a good place to have a break or obtain maps. From this intersection go south (right from downtown) on the Mt. Idaho Grade road. After 7/10th of a mile, keep to the right (straight) where the main road curves left at the drive-in theater. The road is now called the Grangeville-Salmon Road. After about two miles, the road starts a climb onto the mountains south of town and after crossing the National Forest boundary, becomes road 221 at Fish Creek Campground. Continue on the paved road to the well-marked 444 road and turn left onto the gravel. This turn is just before mile marker 30 and is approximately 31 miles south of Grangeville.
Go approximately 8 miles on road 444 to the Upper Gospel Lake pull-out. You can park here or continue up the road for approximately 1/8th mile where there is a pronounced curve to the right and room for 2 or 3 cars to park. From here hike on gentle terrain through an open subalpine forest until the ridge is found. Once on the ridge turn south for an easy half mile walk to the peak. The walk to the summit is gentle from the north, west and south, but around the east side of the peak there are multiple chutes and cliffs where one can find class 3 and 4 rocks to play on. The ridge walk can be skipped by driving several hundred yards further and parking on the ridge immediately west or south of the peak for a short hike to the top.
When To Climb
The climbing season is during the summer and fall. Winter climbing is difficult because access routes are not seasonally maintained. To get there in the winter will require well planned snowmobile and snowshoe excursions.
Good primitive camping can be found at Gospel Lakes immediately north of the summit or the Burnt Knob Lakes to the east. Getting into some lakes of both these groups can be tricky and will take some planning. Set trails are uncommon and careful cross country hikes must be taken. People wanting an easier camping experience from which to drive to and day hike the peak can camp at numerous good dispersed camp sites along the 221 road within 5-10 miles of the 444 junction.
Developed campgrounds can be found at Fish Creek on the 221 road, which is about 23 miles north of the 444 road or Rocky Bluff on the 221 road, two miles south of the 444 junction.
The Nez Perce National Forest
office in Grangeville can provide information about the conditions of the high Gospels and the seasonal road access. Call (208) 983-1950.