Princess Lake Peak
Peak 10328 is small mountain located just north of Granite Peak, which is the highest peak is Montana. It is unnamed on the topo map, so I have attached the name "Princess Lake Peak" to it for purposes of this page due to its dominate position overlooking the lake. This mountain ranks as the 301st-highest peak in Montana, and has 468 feet of prominence.
This is a long and somewhat difficult summit to approach, and it is rarely climbed because most people who get close to it are on their way to climb Granite via the Huckleberry Creek approach. I climbed it when my 2010 attempt on Granite failed because of a snowstorm, and figured that at least I could bag a peak instead of waiting around at the camp by Avalanche Lake.
The views from the summit are very nice, as there are lakes on all sides, and the close-up look at Granite Peak is nothing short of spectacular. It also features a fun summit boulder that requires some Class 5 moves to reach the highest point.
Getting There and Climbing Information
The West Rosebud Trailhead is located approximately 80 miles southwest of Billings. To reach the trailhead, take the Columbus exit from Interstate 90, and take Montana Highway 78 through Absaroka and turn west (right) toward Fishtail (approximately 17 miles from Columbus).
From Fishtail, drive west and south for 1 mile, turn south (left) on West Rosebud Road. Follow this paved road for 6.3 miles until reaching a fork in the road and a large brown Forest Service sign. The sign will indicate West Rosebud Lake Road #72. Turn left here and follow the dirt road for 14 miles until reaching the trailhead. The trailhead has toilet facilities, and a parking area where climbers can leave their cars.
The trail actually begins up the road about 200 yards, and is reached by walking through the Montana Power Company facilities where the trailhead is clearly marked with a Forest Service sign. From there, the trail leads toward Mystic Lake (7637 ft.), one of the most popular day hikes on the Custer National Forest. (West Rosebud directions taken from the Granite Peak
Hike the heavily-used trail for about 5.0 miles to the end of the east side Mystic Lake, where you will cross Huckleberry Creek. Look for a faint climber's trail to your left that ascends the steep hillside through the forest to the right of Huckleberry Lake. This trail is tough to follow in a few spots around and through the boulder fields, especially if you do at 9:00 at night! (Not recommended, by the way.) Stay to the right of the creek as the trail climbs a steep hill just before Princess Lake, where you will need to bear left and cross the creek outlet to get to the east side of the lake. This is your first view of the north side of the peak, which is visible directly across the lake.
I read somewhere that the trail continues from here up to Cold Lake, but I had a heck of a time staying on anything that resembled a trail. There was one tricky stream crossing on a log, but other than that the goal is just to get out of the forest and ascend a steep grass and rock slope to the left to gain the 700 feet to left side of Cold Lake. From here, it is a boulder hop/scramble for the remaining distance to Avalanche Lake, which is situated southeast of the mountain. There are a couple of nice campsites just before you get to the lake.
Snowball Lakes, seen from the summit
Gary on the mountain Summit plateau
Climb the 500-foot east side of the mountain by scrambling through boulder fields and loose rock to near the top, where you can circle around to the right for easier terrain or directly climb some fun Class 3 stuff to reach the summit plateau. The summit is located on top of a 12-foot boulder, which stands alone and is most easily surmounted by doing a couple of easy Class 5 moves on the east side of the boulder.
Gary getting ready to climb the summit boulder
A climb of Princess Lake Peak is 8.0 miles one way with about 4300 feet of elevation gain.
Camping, Red Tape, and External Links
There are no fees or permits needed to hike, climb or camp in this area. This peak is located in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. For any questions, call the Beartooth Ranger Station in Red Lodge at 406-446-2103.
There are two large campgrounds on the way to the West Rosebud Trailhead, as well as numerous spots by Mystic Lake.
Beartooth Ranger Station
Peak 10328 on listsofjohn.com