northwest aspect of Table Mountain
Table Mountain is the highpoint of the Highland Mountains, south of Butte, Montana. It is also the highpoint of Silver Bow County, along the boundary with Madison County. Table has over 4400 feet of prominence, ranking 7th in the State. The huge mountaintop is probably 100 acres in size, and is especially flat when viewed from a distance – hence the name.
view of Table Mountain and the Highland Mountains from the top of Red Mountain
The most popular route to the summit involves traversing the 2-mile ridgecrest from Red Mountain
. This route goes up and over Peak 10136’ (aka Monument), and also climbs over the shoulder of Peak 10039’ to access the gentle northwest slopes of Table Mountain.
Monument Peak - up and over!
This is a scenic scramble route that follows the crater-like Mammoth Creek Cirque, with serene Emerald Lake sparkling below. Parking at the gate below the lookout, this route is about 3.5 miles one-way, with 2300 feet of gain and 1100’ of loss. For what it’s worth, this route took me 4 hours round-trip, moving at a decent clip, although in smoky conditions.
Another more adventurous route climbs north 4 miles from Hells Canyon Creek, following an old trail that leads to the south ridge of the mountain. This route has approximately 3500’ of gain.
Given the terrain of Table Mountain, various options and ridge traverses are possible. Some hikers even organize a car shuttle and traverse the Mountain, allowing the opportunity to take in more scenery of the Highland Mountains.
For the route via Red Mountain, take Highland Road (Forest Service Road 84) from either Interstate 15 or Montana Highway 2, south of Butte. At the crest of this road at Highland Picnic Area follow the signs for Highland Lookout, heading southeast on Forest Service Road 8520.
Highland Lookout & Red Mtn
Just after a mile, turn left on Forest Service Road 668, again following the Highland Lookout signing. In 1.5 miles you come to a four-way intersection, near the ridgetop. Turn right and follow this road (Forest Service Road 8514) 2.1 miles to the parking area on your left, just before reaching the road closure gate. There are some side spur roads that access the utility lines, but the route is pretty obvious – just try to follow and climb the ridge. Some also choose to park before the closure gate to avoid sharp rocks and potential tire/undercarriage damage.
For the south ridge route, take the Hells Canyon Road, heading NW from Montana Highway 41. Follow this for approximately 15 miles to a fork and stay right. Follow this branch for about ½ mile to a bridge over a side drainage and access to the old trail that heads up the ridge between the two creeks.
Red Mtn from Table Mtn summit
The summit and most of the mountain are located on Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. There is nothing to worry about for the Hells Canyon route on the south side of the Mountain. If traversing over Red Mountain, be aware of the road closure gate below the fire lookout, as well as the fact that most of the cirque northeast of the ridge traverse is closed to the public, including Emerald Lake. There is also some private land between Highland Picnic Area and the fire lookout access road; just stick to the suggested roads and you’ll be fine.
looking down at Emerald Lake
ReferencesClimbers Guide to Montana
, by Pat Caffrey (1985)
, by Cedron Jones (2011)