Hesse Mountain is a seldom climbed peak in the southern Bighorn range, and is in very close proximity to three other peaks: Hazelton Peak (10,264ft), Hazelton Pyramid (10,534ft), and an unnamed 13,372ft peak. These peaks dominate the vista south of well-traveled highway 16 near the Powder River Pass (9,677 ft), but no trails lead to the summit of Hesse Mountain. Bushwacking is the only way to the summit.
The good news is that you'll only need to bushwack for a mile or so, the rest of the climb is either green pastures (in summer) or some light scrambling. Near the summit of Hesse some Class 3 scrambling is required as well.
Highway 16 from either direction will get you to the Powder River pass. On the east side of the pass, look for the Forest Road 29 (also labeled Munkers Pass on some maps). In winter, this is your trailhead. In summer, at the first fork in the road turn right (south) onto FR29, and you will descend into Canyon Park. Travel about 1 mile on FR29 and park.
From the highway turnoff you'll be able to see Hesse to your southeast. If you drive down FR29, you will not be able to see the mountain, but it will be located directly to your southwest.
Maps & Info
Important note: The National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map of the Cloud Peak Wilderness does not show the Hesse/Hazelton region, it's south off of the map. Instead, the following USGS Maps for this area are as follows:
Winter start (~6 miles round trip): hike along Munkers Pass road for about 1 mile.
Summer start (~4 miles round trip): After parking, head directly southeast into the trees. You will encounter about a mile of bushwacking. Head southeast and focus on gaining elevation. As you gain elevation, you will begin ascending a ridge that follows your southeasterly heading. Eventually you will move above the treeline, making route finding much easier.
Hesse Mountain from Munkers Pass. Image by jimmyjay
Follow treeline below the ridge and stay below the false summit. Behind the false summit is one of the two summits that are Hesse Mountain.
Hesse Mountain southwest summit block.
Once on the west summit of Hesse, you'll see another summit that is roughly the same elevation. Another 15 minutes of scrambling will put you on the east summit.
Hesse Mountain northeast summit
When to Climb
This mountain can be climbed in any season, although the approach is about 2 miles longer round trip in winter. Also, depth hoar on the scramble can be very frustrating. However the mountain is close enough to the road to be done in a long morning or afternoon.
Mountain ConditionsNOAA Forecast
Current Snow Information
Hesse Mountain is located in Bighorn National Forest land (Buffalo Ranger District) No permits are required.