Outstanding in its field
Most who enjoy the challenge of climbing Montana’s highest peaks will put Crazy Peak (11,214 ft.) near the top of their list of “climbs to do” (or “best climbs done”). Although Granite Peak (12,799 ft.) and several of its neighbors are higher, Crazy Peak takes the prize as Montana’s most “topographically prominent” peak. “Prominence” is a value that tells how much a peak stands out compared to the region around it. For those who drive I-90 or other highways in south-central Montana, the Crazy Mountains really do stand out, and they are exceptionally rugged for such a small isolated range. Peakbaggers can’t help but feel drawn to their steep, treeless ridges and summits. Apparently the same allure attracted some of Montana’s first people. The Apsaalookè (Crow) people revered them as a spiritual sanctuary, using the Crazies as an important site for vision quests. It is claimed that their great leader Chief Plenty Coups (1848-1932) had a vision there in 1857 that foretold of the impending end of the Plains Indian culture. (photo tour)
Where have you been all my life?
After decades of driving past the Crazy Mountains I finally climbed Crazy Peak with a young friend (Andriy) in July of 2016. We did it as a day hike – out and back from Halfmoon Campground. It is 12.7 miles round-trip, with 4,809 ft. of elevation gain, including half an hour of scrambling to reach the “west ridge”. Tough hike! But if you’re up to it, this is VERY fun adventure, featuring great variety (6 distinct phases), an incredible ridge ascent, one CRAZY Couloir, and amazing views of a good portion of Montana. Andriy and I left Helena on a Friday afternoon, stopped by the Pickle Barrel in Livingston for a cheese-steak sandwich, then completed the 180-mile drive to our campsite. After setting up camp we took time to explore Big Timber Falls, an impressive series of falls just half a mile from the campground. Saturday morning we started hiking at 7:45, completed our hike at 4:45 pm, and returned to Helena that evening.
Details, resources, etc.
I would rate this as extreme* – I’ve done tougher day-hikes, but this was right up there. On the other hand, my friend Andriy, who is 40 years younger, might score it as “difficult”. I recommend doing the trip just as we did. Get yourself a cheese-steak, camp at Halfmoon, take an evening walk to Big Timber Falls, get up early the next morning, and pick a great weather day. Mid-July to mid-September is your best bet.
When planning hikes such as this, there are three resources that I’ve found to be especially helpful (2 books and one website): Peakbagging Montana by Cedron Jones, Hiking Montana by Bill Schneider, and a website called Summit Post. If a climb has a “tricky part” I often print photos from the Summit Post site to refer to when I get to that part. These resources each provide directions for getting to trailheads as well. Our Crazy Peak adventure started at Halfmoon Campground. To get there from Big Timber, take US Highway 191 north for 9.2 miles, turn left on Wormser Road, drive 3.4 miles, turn right on Big Timber Canyon Road, and drive 13.1 miles to the campground (last few miles are rough). We grabbed the last camping spot that afternoon.
OK – Enough reading!
Look through the photo tour, which includes trail photos, aerial photos, and maps – plus more details, suggestions, and a little geology as well. Happy trails!
Click on the links below for more information.
- Photo Tour
Six distinct phases.
- Peakbagging Montana: A Guide to Montana’s Major Peaks
A great resource for Montana peakbaggers.
- Hiking Montana: A Guide to the State’s Greatest Hikes
A great resource for Montana hikers.
- Definition of Prominence
List of Montana’s most prominent peaks.
- How the Crazy Mountains Got Their Name
I’d bet on the “vision theory”.
Describes the route we took.