Another gorgeous weekend and exhilarating hike in the books. I’ve really never found something I enjoy as much or as thoroughly as I enjoy hiking. We were going to hike Mount Baldy, but on the way home from church made a quick switch decision to hike something new instead. This may have been even better than Baldy…
Buckhorn Mountain is a recognizable granite peak and ridge formation just north of Custer along Hwy. 16/385. What is generally photographed is not actually the highest point, however, so don’t let that throw you. Look at in on a topographical map and it makes sense, but I was confused for awhile when it seemed like we weren’t actually hiking Buckhorn.
There is no trail, so the best access is to hike up the Michelson Trail from town, and after about a mile head off trail east toward the peak. Keep it in view and you can’t get lost. As long as you can still climb higher, you’re not there yet. Round trip, it is a little under 4 miles. We picked what seemed like the most direct route(and the route that would include some boulder scrambling), up the west slope of the mountain, and boy, were we in for a treat! Plenty of scrambling to satisfy that craving, and gorgeous glimpses of views along the way up. We discovered a much easier route on the way down, however, on the south slope.
This peak clearly gets very little attention, and for good reason. There are a lot of snags and deadfall, steep slopes covered with duff, and lots of boulders. But if you feel like braving it, the view from the top is magnificent. The whole way up, we were watching a particular peak, only to get up to a saddle between it and the real peak and realize it was a false summit. This is a beautiful view of the false summit, from an open meadow on the way back down: From the top, Crazy Horse, the Harney range, Custer, and everything in between is laid out like a map, clear and pristine and beautiful. I always enjoy getting up high enough that birds are soaring at eye level or lower.
On the way down, we found an easier route, which meandered through beautiful, open woods and boulder-strewn hillsides, emerald-green, kinnikinnick-covered slopes, and mossy spring areas. I can’t pinpoint the feeling exactly, but certain areas of the hills, including this hike, kept reminding me of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, or C.S. Lewis’s Narnia. Rugged, wild, and hauntingly beautiful. Axel also found an intact deer rack, which he didn’t want but I did, so it got a ride back on his pack. Definitely a hike I recommend, if you like some rock scrambling and off-trail hiking!