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A Guide to Hiking Buck Mountain

Buck Mountain Hiking: Summit Trails
In general, hiking in the Teton Range is pretty challenging, but the views are also spectacular.
In general, hiking in the Teton Range is pretty challenging, but the views are also spectacular.

In 1898, the Bannon topographic party blazed a route up Buck Mountain's East Face to complete the first recorded ascent of Buck Mountain [source: Ortenburger and Jackson]. Over the next century, mountaineers mapped out other more difficult climbing routes up the mountain. Today, there are five main summit trails on Buck Mountain:

  • East Face: A Class 3 scramble, this challenging but relatively moderate 12-mile (19-kilometer) round-trip climb can be accomplished in about a day. Climbers who reach the summit will be rewarded with amazing views of the major Teton Peaks to the north.
  • East Ridge: At times more difficult than the East Face approach, the East Ridge summit trail requires rock climbing as well as scrambling skills. Though this trail is classified as a Class 4 climb, it can be made more difficult by staying on the ridge. Or, to make it a little easier, climbers can hike slightly down and south of the ridge.
  • Southeast Couloir: Be sure to bring rope on this approach, because this mostly Class 4 route has a few short, exposed sections that approach Class 5 status.
  • Northeast Chimney: This Class 4 summit approach is very steep and, except in summer, generally blanketed in deep snow. Though the hike can be done in day, many climbers allow two days and camp overnight at the south fork of Avalanche Canyon.
  • North Northwest Ridge: The most challenging of the five summit trails, this 7.2-mile (11.5-kilometer) one-way hike is rated class 5.7 and requires rock climbing experience as well as specialized climbing gear.

Novices will find any one of the summit trails on Buck Mountain fairly difficult. Even experienced climbers and mountaineers may find conditions challenging on the more advanced routes. Except on the relatively moderate East Face trail, you'll want to bring specialized climbing or mountaineering equipment as well as the usual day hiking gear.