Points 8740 & 8787 - Soda Springs Peaks

Points 8740 & 8787 - Soda Springs Peaks

Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 45.82686°N / 114.42179°W
Additional Information County: Ravalli
Activities Activities: Hiking, Scrambling
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Elevation: 8787 ft / 2678 m
Sign the Climber's Log


West Soda Springs Peak

Latitude & Longitude – 45.82686 N / 114.42179 W
Route Type – Hike with some Scrambling
Elevation – 8,787’
Class Level – Class 2+
Length of Time Required To Complete Route – One Day

Points 8740 and 8787 reside in a remote and seldom-visited area north of the Nez Perce Fork of the Bitterroot River. Both highpoints, which I refer to as the Soda Springs Peaks (as a matter of geographical location), sit on the crest of a southeast-northwest ridge located between the ridges of Bare Peak and Mount Jerusalem.

Because they are only about one mile apart and sit on the same ridge, I choose to place both peaks on the same SummitPost mountain page in spite of the fact that the saddle which separates them is far more than the generally accepted 300’ below either summit. Besides, I feel any climber’s destination should be the higher summit (8,787’) which is reached second by this route and offers the much more spectacular views.

These summits are in my favorite area of the Bitterroot Mountains, favorite because it is one of the wildest and most remote regions on the Montana side of the Bitterroots. Though their summits are not particularly high, the views of the surrounding 9,000+ foot peaks which they offer can be had from no other viewpoints.

One of the best times of year to visit this remote area of the Bitterroots is during the fall hunting season. Now at first that suggestion may seem foolish, but let me assure you it is not. Although there may be hunters about in the forest, they generally stay fairly close to roads and well-established trails. The reason is that they fully expect to "get their animal" (elk or deer) and a carcass is heavy. Few of them are willing to lug animal parts a long way back to a vehicle.

Besides the fact you are likely to see more "prey" animals, who like climbers, have the good sense to seek out the high country where the hunters don’t go, the fall colors of the forest (including the yellow-gold of the Alpine Larch) are at their best during that special time of year.

An added bonus of visiting this area during the fall, is that much of the undergrowth has died back which makes it easier to find your footing while bushwhacking through the inevitable sections of woods which guard the paths to the summits.

Soda Springs Creek received its name from early settlers who used the peculiar tasting water (for medicinal purposes) from a small spring about a quarter of a mile from the mouth of the stream.

Getting There

Soda Springs Trailhead

Stay right at this fork
From Hwy 93 (south of Darby, MT) take Montana Hwy 473 (West Fork Road) west for 14.3 miles to the junction with Nez Perce Road (468).

Follow the Nez Perce Road for 3.6 miles to the end of the pavement.

Turn right (west) 0.1 mile past the end of the pavement onto signed Soda Springs Road (FR 5635).

You will cross the Little West Fork (1.1 miles) then Soda Springs Creek (1.6 miles) on good bridges.

At 2.4 miles, stay right on FS Road 5635 (FR 13480 goes left).

You will pass a Forest Service gate at approximately 3.5 miles slightly before the road swings back toward the east. The gate is closed between October 15th and June 15th.

Pull off at the next switchback (approximately .8 mile past the gate where the road turns north) and park at the beginning of an abandoned logging road.

The trailhead is unmarked with room for parking only one or two vehicles.

East Soda Springs Peak

Area Restrictions (Red tape)

About 1.5 miles into this route, you pass into an official wilderness area. All applicable wilderness rules and regulations should be observed.


The only area along this route (other than at the trailhead) which would be acceptable as a camping site is just before you reach the Wilderness Boundary (Point 7145). There is no water available, but if you’re willing to carry what you need, this area offers great views and a few small grassy areas for pitching a tent.

The Route

This route climbs rather steadily at approximately 1,000’ per mile, but offers great views of the Bare Peak ridge (northeast), the Mount Jerusalem ridge (southwest), and the Soda Creek Drainage. Bushwhacking is required through sections of open to moderately-dense woods over the first 3 miles of the route. Between the two peaks, the route consists almost entirely of hiking and moderate scrambling with little bushwhacking. The best views of the surrounding area are from the west summit, Point 8787.

Ridge to the False Summit & Soda Springs Peaks
The unmarked route to the Soda Springs Peaks begins by proceeding east along the abandoned road for about 100 yards to where a rather large (and long-dead) Ponderosa Pine has fallen across the road.

Immediately after passing the fallen tree, leave the old roadbed and head directly north for a short distance until you reach the crest of the ridge.

After reaching the ridge, the route simply follows the ridge-crest through woods and over talus in a northwesterly direction. As you progress up the ridge, the woods becomes increasingly thicker and the incline more intense until it reaches the area near Point 7145. From this point upward, the woods grows less dense and is interspersed with areas of talus.

Note: What appears (as you climb the ridge) to be the summit of Point 8740 is actually a false summit at an elevation around 8,600 feet. Fortunately it is only a short distance and elevation gain from there to the actual summit.

When you leave the summit of Point 8740 and head for Point 8787, you can increase the difficulty of the climb to Class 3 (or more) if you down-climb in a northwesterly direction. Otherwise, keep the climbing to Class 2 (or maybe Class 2+) by climbing down from the summit in a southwesterly direction for about 300 feet before traversing directly toward the saddle which is around 8,100 feet.

From the saddle the route gains in the neighborhood of 600’ and is mostly Class 2 hiking along the ridge crest toward Point 8787. There is one short section of very easy Class 3 climbing on the ridge to the summit, but it's so simple I can't bring myself to classify the route as Class 3. I'll compromise on Class 2+.

Return to the trailhead by reversing this route.

A Short Section of Class 3 Scrambling (a Bob Sihler Photo)

Note: Be careful when you follow the ridge back to the trailhead and do not descend too far. It’s very easy to do and will place you well below your vehicle.

This is one instance where it would be acceptable to judiciously place a piece of brightly colored survey tape to remind you where to leave the ridge-crest during your descent. If you do so, retrieve the tape during your descent, please.

Mount Jerusalem from West Soda Springs Peak
(a Bob Sihler Photo)

Side Note: Bob Sihler, who most SummitPost members are aware is one of the site’s top contributors, spent a week during July (2008) hiking and climbing with me in Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains.

Now, some may say I was a fool for believing I would be able to keep up with someone many years my junior, and I must add, with superior rock climbing abilities. Under normal circumstances it would have been true, but as it turned out I was able to keep up.

It seems Bob had recently replaced his worn hiking boots. He’d done all the right things, made sure of the fit, did everything possible to break them in, etc. Unfortunately on one of his longish outings before arriving in the Bitterroots, the new boots turned carnivorous and ate his feet. I don’t just mean gave him a blister or two, but chewed the skin off his heels and the balls of his feet, along with taking a few bites out of other places on his feet.

Still in the west for more than two more weeks and not about to give up his beloved mountains, Bob made the best of a bad situation and learned to hike and climb in Chaco Sandals. They worked great while he climbed in Glacier National Park on those mountain's special brands of rock, scree, and snow.

Regrettably the Bitterroot Mountains are different. They have a wild character which often means climbing includes plenty of deadfall, bushwhacking through underbrush, and crossing granite talus which sometimes has sharp edges.

Assuming our first outing (of 2008), a climb up the Soda Springs Peaks, would be similar to his experiences in Glacier, and because his feet were still not completely back to normal, Bob wore his Chacos. Ouch! Though he claimed to enjoy the climb, I’m afraid our route got the better of Bob’s feet and slowed him to such an extent that I actually outpaced him during the descent. For once, I could keep up with a younger guy. Thank god for new boots!

However, on our subsequent outings, Bob, with the help of many bandages, managed to wear his boots.

When To Go

This route can be used at any time of the year, although doing so when the ground is snow covered will lengthen the route by about 4.5 miles. Nez Perce Road is closed at the end of the pavement during the winter, approximately .1 mile before the beginning of the road to the trailhead (Soda Springs Road – FR 5635).

Because it closely follows the ridge-crest, there is little danger of avalanche along this route.

If you are looking for a spring or early-summer snow climb, once the snow is consolidated, this route would be perfect.

Essential Gear

Plenty of water (and food) plus sturdy hiking boots and weather-appropriate clothing is all that’s required for this route unless you plan to use it when snow covered. Then an ice axe and crampons are recommended.

Route Statistics

Summits – 8,740’ (east)
                  8,787’ (west)

Gain – 4,827’ (total)

Distance – 4.4 miles
(one way)

Additional Pictures

Wild Idaho (a Bob Sihler Photo)
Mt Jerusalem from the West Summit

Collecting Snow During the Descent
The Ridges of Bare Peak (a Bob Sihler Photo)

The Soda Springs Drainage
Bob on the False Summit

Red Paintbrush
Beargrass Bloom

Resting and Waiting During the Descent
West Soda Springs Peak (a Bob Sihler Photo)

The Bare Peak Ridgeline
Closeup of the Serrated Ridge

Point 8922
Northwest View (a Bob Sihler Photo)

Picturing Mount Jerusalem
Ridge to East Soda Springs Peak



Children refers to the set of objects that logically fall under a given object. For example, the Aconcagua mountain page is a child of the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits.' The Aconcagua mountain itself has many routes, photos, and trip reports as children.