Smiley Mountain is a high and lonely, tri-summited mountain in the southeast corner of Idaho's Pioneer Mountains. At 11,508 ft. it is the highest in this group of peaks known as the Smiley Lobe. There are a number of other 11,000 ft. peaks in this area but all are 200-300 ft. lower than Smiley. Because of this and it's location Smiley is ideally situated for a spectacular view. No less than 7 different mountain ranges are visible from it's summit! (Pioneers, Lost River Range, Smokies, White Clouds, Lemhi Range, White Knobs, and the Salmon River Mountains) All of Idaho's 12,000 ft. peaks are visible and the view of the main Pioneer crest to the northwest cannot be beat.
The Pioneer Crest
Because of its height and decent accesability Smiley sees the most traffic in this region. The other mountains in this spectacular area of the Pioneers seldom see visitors because they are more difficult to access and are not as well known. They are, however, no less spectacular or desirable than the peaks of the main Pioneers. Smiley is rated as a class 2 in Tom Lopez's "Idaho" A Climbing Guide" and I believe that rating is accurate. Even though it is only a class 2 it is still a difficult climb that involves a serious bushwhack for the first 2/3 of the ascent and then a scramble over very loose talus in steep terrain. They payoff though is to be had at the summit. It is truly spectacular!
Unlike the mountains of the main Pioneers the rock composition of the Smiley Lobe seems to be different. Whereas the main Pioneers are composed of good solid granite (for the most part, not saying there isn't any exceptions) these peaks seem to be more similar to the White Knobs in that many of them are just big piles of crumbling rock or jagged peaks jutting up out of giant talus fields.
The Pioneers in general are a fairly dry range and the Smiley Lobe is
exceptionally dry. This is the area between the arid Snake River Plain and dry Copper Basin. The area above treeline is of course rocky and barren and at lower elevations the land is dominated by grass and sagebrush. This provides excellent habitat for deer, elk, and especially antelope. Pines cover many of the North facing slopes between the sagebrush hills and the rocky slopes of the peaks. There are a few alpine lakes in the Smiley Lobe but not as many as the main Pioneers.
Smiley Mountain's south side is somewhat timbered with pine and aspen. There are many ancient limber pines on the higher slopes but on all the other sides the mountain is barren. A large flat area of grass and sagebrush called Smiley Meadows sits directly below its east face while a high cirque is to the west. To the North lies a large broad ridge and upper end of Lake Creek Canyon, all above 10,000 ft.
Access to Smiley is either from Antelope Creek on the South or Copper Basin on the North.
From Arco, Idaho head North on Highway 93. You will pass through the very small town of Moore, Idaho and a mile or two past it there will be a large sign directing you to Antelope Creek on the left. The road is paved for the first few mile but turns to a good dirt road after a while. Follow the signs pointing you to Iron Bog Campground. Once at the campground you may park and head up Right Fork road to gain access to the southeast ridge of Smiley of if you have a high-clearance 4WD vehicle you may drive up the road. Driving up the road will shorten the approach by about 2 miles.
Right Fork of Iron Bog Creek
From Arco, again take highway 93 North. You will eventually pass through Mackay and continue north till you see a sign pointing you to the Trail Creek Road on you left. Turn onto this road which is also paved for quite a ways. It will turn to dirt eventually. Turn left where a sign directs you to Copper Basin and Wildhorse Canyon. After following this road for a while it will again split at the mouth of Wildhorse Canyon. The right fork takes you into the canyon and the left takes you to Copper Basin. Once in Copper Basin turn right onto the Copper Basin Loop and drive until you get to the Lake Creek Recreation site. The hike up Lake Creek is about 5 miles. This route is also accessible by car.
The only red tape is the road conditions. The Right Fork road past Iron Bog Campground is a high-clearance 4WD road. You can park at the campground but that will add an extra 2 miles to the approach.
Also be aware that this area is open to grazing so expect to see lots of cattle.
There are two campgrounds depending on which approach you use. On the South is Iron Bog Campground. On the North is the Lake Creek Recreation Site at the mouth of Lake Creek.
Those are the only two established sites but you may also camp anywhere else you like along your approach.
For information regarding Smiley and other Idaho mountains check out the Idaho Outdoors Forum
More great resources and trip reports for Idaho mountains can be found at Idahosummits.com
and the website forIdaho: A Climbing Guide