This is not the Jumbo Mountain over by Missoula. This one is between Bozeman and Big Sky in the Madison Range.
I live in Bozeman and had been doing the local hikes and was starting to get just a little bored with the Bridgers and the Hyalite area. I'm looking at the topo and this one catches my eye. There's no trail shown so I asked around town and most had never heard of it and no one had been up there. I had been up to Lava Lake many times but couldn't recall even seeing this one and that's because you can't. And with an elevation of 10,416 feet it was higher than anything in the Bridgers or Hyalite. I scanned the topos and Google Earth and focused on this hump or ridge immediately to the north of Lava Lake and the Cascade Creek drainage. Game animals favor ridges so I thought there may be a trail and this ridge led right to the peak. There is a much higher ridge to the north which is part of the Hell Roaring Plateau which looks even longer so I chose this one. I did notice that the elevation of the parking area was around 5515' which meant that this one had 4901' of vert and that's quite a bit in my book. So this route on Google Earth is what I did. Ignore that waypoint at Lava Lake. That was from last summer. This route works out to about 5.3 miles on Google Earth. But it has lots of diversions caused mainly by downfall. You will walk around, on, over, and under lots and lots of trees and logs. And you will lose and find the trail many times. The summit is really an impressive plateau so if you are like me you will walk around that a bit too. I'm going to call this a 7 mile one way hike or 14 round trip. It is really strenuous and has no water at all except for the stream at the bottom and the snow at the top so bring lots. I drank about 2.3 liters. It's bear country of course. I saw no one at all until I got all the way back down to the LL trail.
All of these pics are hi-res. To get a good look click on the pic which will take you to that pics page and then click on it again and you have the detailed one. If you enlarge that first small pic of Jumbo in the upper right hand corner you can see just about the entire hump/ridge. It snakes from left of center at the bottom to right of center in the middle then back left again.
6 hours to the top
The trail starts at the Lava Lake trail head on 191 between Bozeman and Big Sky. Look for the flashing caution light and the Lava Lake sign. Park at the normal trail head area.
As you go about a mile up the trail you will pass the Wilderness Area sign. About a half a mile past that is a creek and you have to use the boulders to cross this one. After about a hundred yards you have to cross a bigger stream with bigger boulders. I purposely counted my steps on the way out and it was 140 from here to the beginning of the Jumbo Mt. trail if you want to call it that. So walk up the trail 140 steps from the big creek (more or less) and you will arrive at this entry point on the right from the Lava Lake trail:
You can see that there used to be a trail here but this one goes only about 25' and ends. My plan was to follow the hump to the peak. Well, the hump starts here and it's that little berm between you and the creek that you just crossed on your right. I have noticed and have talked to the Forest Service people that they let many older trails go "natural" since the wilderness area designation and I believe that this is what we have here. The bottom mile of this hike is the worst. The trail is steep and somewhat vague and there is a lot of downfall. Anyway you will walk in here while keeping the creek on your right. After a bit the creek will bend more left and the ridge on the hump will become more pronounced and you can see parts of the old trail here and there. Remember to always stay on the ridge and never cross the creek to the north or go down into that little valley. If you are on a steep side slope then you are off track. The hump might flatten out and a new ridge will start but for the most part you will stay on highest part. You will see some old ax and chainsaw work and that is where the trail is.
The cut logs give it away
Mostly the trail is on your right near the bottom on the little ridge above the creek. However it does meander on the broad hump sections and it's real easy to lose it completely.
Not much of a trail
After about a mile things improve a bit and the old trail reveals itself a little more.
a real trail
The ridge gets narrower and generally the trail is right there or within 20'. You are climbing quite rapidly with the ridge swinging to the left side and you get your first peek at Lava Lake.
About 800' above
There are faint steep trails that come up here from lake level. I wonder if this is the better way?
A little bit further and here's you first look at Jumbo.
the hidden mountain
The trail alternates sides of the ridge but always stays on or close to the highest part. You also get a view a a small lake on the north side of the ridge. There is not a name for this little valley.
Here's a view of Jumbo Lake back on the south side.
Looks tough to get to this one
I had considered this route to Jumbo Lake as a possibility. Hike to Lava Lake, go around the south side, then up through some steep stuff to this lake and then on to the peak. From up here it just doesn't seem like a great choice.
The trail gets better up here and pretty soon you are at treeline.
In the wide open
It's still about 1.3 miles to the summit. There is no trial up here and you don't need one. Stay near the ridge but out of the snow which is about the center of the pic. I glissaded that little snowfield on the way down. This is a wide sloping plateau to the peak. The terrain keeps getting flatter and wider and now you are on top.
Maybe that's the top
This peak has an acre or better of real estate on the summit that doesn't change elevation more than a few feet (that's why it's called Jumbo). It's your guess which pile of rocks is the actual tippy top. This one has promise because there is a unusual collection of stuff there. There are some stakes nailed together and more on the ground and then a thick wire loosely attached. The best i can figure out is it might be a lightening experiment. There are other rock piles that look a little higher but when you get over there then the other one looks higher so i tapped 5 or 6 just to be sure. I think that's Gallatin Peak in the center of the pic.
It took me 6 hours to get here. I probably could have shaved a half or so if I hadn't stopped for piccys and waypoints but then this page wouldn't be any good. I had a leisurely lunch and started to explore the summit. The crazy thing about this one is that the summit is so flat and immense that you can't see what's around you unless you walk to the edges. So I did.
I zoomed in on Garnet Peak from the summit. Can you see the old ranger cabin on top? My primary photo which is the first one on this page is the reverse view. Hi-way 191 is down in the valley between the two.
This one is looking back at the hump and ridge. The trail is just on the other side of the snow cornices. That's the Bridger Range in the hazy distance.
Now I've walked the 1.3 miles back down to treeline. Even though I walked up through here I found myself constantly being to far right as you look down when in fact the trail is more left.
In many places the trail is pretty decent but then I would lose it and have to find it again.
The long walk down gets to be pretty monotonous and very tiresome. I really got tired of all the dead fall and came out at a different place on to the LL Trail. That is the pic I put in near the beginning of this page. I have to wonder if there is a better way to get up to the hump from Lava Lake. I have hiked around the north end of LL before this and there are some trails that go up from there. I haven't explored these. Maybe that's the easy way?
It's in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area so leave your motorized devices at home. And no mt. bikes either although this trail is the opposite of bike friendly.
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There's no campfires allowed near Lava Lake but this trail doesn't go there anyway.