Hike to Trapper Peak Summit

Trapper Peak dominates the skyline of the south portion of the Bitterroot Vally with its three jagged peaks. The tallest of these stands 10,157 feet above sea level, and ranks as the highest peak in the Bitterroot Range. This particular route is largely off-trail as it follows a ridge above Baker Lake to the summit.

Who this trapper that had such a staggering peak named for them? No one knows exactly from where moniker Trapper Peak actually derives. Theories usually center around the presence of trappers in the area through the early 1800s.

The Ascent

The first portion of the Trapper Peak route followed the well-traveled trail to Baker Laker, a popular fishing lake. Once reaching the lake, you veer south where you find a gully that leads you to Baker Ridge. We stayed right on this ridge until we were above treeline. Across this open landscape we skirted around “South” Trapper Peak and made our way into the saddle between the two summits. Now it was time to scramble over the mostly large boulders to the top. Once on top, the views are unparalleled as the rest of planet is below you. The vast sweep of the Selway-Bitterroot extends beyond the eye’s reach. The valleys are troughs between waves of mountains.

The Descent

This is where the adventure actually started as we mistook a tiny no-name lake for Gem Lake, which sits in a cirque below Trapper Peak, and we followed the wrong gully of the ridge. At the lake, a lonely set of wolf tracks remained in the wet sand of the lake. Once around the lake, we soon became cliffed-out, and spent an inordinate amount of time picking our way done ledges and across smooth faces.

The Critters

Among the usual cast of characters, there were two stars of the hike. Near the summit, we startted to observed rosy-finches…Black Rosy-finches! This was the first I had seen them in the Bitterroot Range. Then another first was lounging on a granite slab. The chill Hoary Marmot basked in the sun, and paid us very little mind as I took images and video of the rodent.


Birds Observed

  • Dusky Grouse
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Vaux’s Swift
  • Rufous Hummingbird
  • American Three-toed Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Gray Jay
  • Steller’s Jay
  • Clark’s Nutcracker
  • Common Raven
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Mountain Chickadee
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Hermit Thrush
  • American Pipit
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Western Tanager
  • Black Rosy-Finch
  • Cassin’s Finch
  • Red Crossbill
  • Pine Siskin

Written by Radd Icenoggle

I am a native Montanan, who has spent a lifetime as an outdoors and wildlife enthusiast. I earned a degree in biology with an emphasis on habitat relations. During my studies, I had the great fortune to research and compose a thesis that explored the effects of slope aspect on...
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