Contributed by David Sellars
Country: United States
Location: Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming
One-way trip: 4.3 km
Start elevation: 3050 m
Final Elevation: 3097 m
Maps: 1:24,000 USGS Hidden Tepee Creek and Leavitt Reservoir
From US Alternate Route 14A west of Burgess Junction, head south on Forest Road #10, Hunt Mountain Road. Drive for 6 km (3.7 miles) and park on the road.
PARTIAL PLANT LIST
Physaria didymocarpa var lanata
Clematis columbiana var tenuiloba
The highest peaks in the Bighorn Mountains are in the Cloud Peak Wilderness in the southern part of the range and these mountains are primarily Pre-cambrian granite. The northern Bighorns are characterized by rolling alpine meadows and outcrops of Bighorn Dolomite. The highest mountain in the dolomite area is Hunt Mountain at 3,097 m (10,162 feet). Because the terrain is relatively gentle it is possible to drive on Hunt Mountain Road, a gravel and dirt road, passing within 2 km of the summit.
A very good description of the flowers to be seen along Hunt Mountain Road can be found in an article by Iza Goroff on the Winter 2006 edition of the NARGS Rock Garden Quarterly. There are a number of different cross-country hiking routes that could be taken from Hunt Mountain Road. One of the best which is an easy walk is described. An oblique Google Earth image looking north shows the recommended route.
Park 6 km (3.7 miles) from where Hunt Mountain Road leaves US 14 Alternate. The hike starts at N 440 43’ 37” and W 1070 44’ 44”. Head roughly southwest (no trail) across the rounded hill (with spot height 10046 on USGS map sheet Hidden Teepee Creek). You will come out on top of what Iza Goroff calls Hunt Mountain Cliffs. These cliffs are smaller than the Hunt Mountain Escarpment which is 1 km further west. Kelseya uniflora grows on outcrops at the top of the cliffs together with Draba and other species. The cliffs are worth exploring for flowers lower down but it is suggested that this is saved for later in the day on the return leg of the hike. Head northwest along the top of the cliffs and cross the meadows with Dodecatheon to the edge of the Hunt Mountain Escarpment. The high winds blowing over the escarpment and stoney ridge combine to form perfect habitat for Aquilegia jonesii and Eritrichium nanum which grow here in abundance. The walk up the edge of the escarpment to the top of Hunt Mountain is delightful with splendid views and more flowers including multiple rosette forms of Physaria sp., Douglasia montana, Oxytropis lagopus and Mertensia oblongifolia. An unusual Clematis also grows on the ridge. Clematis columbiana var tenuiloba grows as a small upright plant, not as a vine. More information on this plant is available at eFloras.org.
From the summit of Hunt Mountain you can retrace your steps down the ridge and walk up the South Summit at spot height 10015 on USGS map sheet Leavitt Reservoir. There is fantastic Karst terrain on the South Summit and extensive Kelseya uniflora growing on horizontal rock surfaces. Townsendia parryi and Polemonium viscosum also grows here. From the South Summit you can walk across to the base of the Hunt Mountain Cliffs passing the diminutive Dodecatheon conjugens in the meadows. There are large boulders below the cliffs with more Kelseya uniflora growing on the rocks and Pulsatilla patens in the meadows. The cliff can be ascended up a wide grassy gully with Anemone multifida and Lloydia serotina growing among the boulders.