The Gallatin Valley is surrounded by mountains, and I’d obviously love to be able to climb each and every one of them. But summiting most of them requires a substantial amount of bushwhacking, technical climbing, or both. I have a good sense of direction and I know how to read a map, but I don’t own a single piece of climbing equipment. So those hikes are going to have to wait for that future time in which I’m not a broke grad student. Sometimes it seems like that day will never arrive.
Some of the mountains, though, can be accessed much more easily and require only a backpack, a rain coat, and sturdy shoes. And so, in July 2010, my mom and I set out on one of these hikes – Mount Blackmore. We’d hiked to Blackmore Lake a few years earlier, and from there we could see Mount Blackmore rising in the distance. We can also see it from our house, as it’s the third-tallest peak in Hyalite Canyon. So naturally, we decided to climb it.
The trailhead to Mount Blackmore departs from a parking area just before Hyalite Reservoir. The road is curvy here so the turnoff is easy to miss; it’s off to the right surrounded by trees.
Summiting the 10,154 foot (3095 m) tall Mount Blackmore requires a 10 mile (16 km) round-trip hike with an elevation gain of about 3400 feet (1035 m). It’s reasonably steep. For the first 1.5 miles (2.4 km), the trail meanders up and down through the forest before opening up to the small but pretty Blackmore Lake. Beyond the lake, the trail begins its steady climb – one that won’t end until the summit.
About halfway up, as we were switch-backing through an open meadow, the weather started to deteriorate. A thunderstorm rolled in – which isn’t a big deal, afternoon thunderstorms are a regular occurrence in Montana, and they usually pass in 20-30 minutes. Of course, we were up in the mountains and out in the open, so that wasn’t ideal. We hid out under tree cover as best we could until the storm passed. After a short while, the thunder and lightning stopped, so we pressed on.
When we reached the saddle between Mount Blackmore and the neighboring Elephant Peak, the clouds had lifted enough to give us hope that the weather would hold out. But as we continued to climb, we soon found ourselves in the clouds. We debated what to do before deciding that we’d worked too hard and come too far to turn back. We’re stubborn. So we continued on to the summit.
By the time we arrived at the summit, it was 35°F (2°C) and sleeting. We were huddled in our rain coats, soaking wet, and our faces and legs were bright red – and not from a lack of sunscreen!
I won’t lie – standing on a summit and not being able to see much of anything is disappointing. We did a lot of climbing for not a lot of reward. But we made it, and it’s one of the tallest mountains we’ve ever climbed, so we definitely have that to be proud of!
The Important Stuff:
- Getting there: from Bozeman, head up Hyalite Canyon Road; parking area is just before the reservoir on the right
- Fees & passes: none
- Camping: 3 small campgrounds (10-17 sites); $14 per night, reservations accepted
- Hiking: Blackmore Trail to Blackmore Lake and Mount Blackmore; 10 miles (16 km) RT with 3400 feet (1035 m) elevation gain
- Other: Hyalite Canyon is a multipurpose recreation area, so be aware of horses, bikers, motorized vehicles, and hunters