A real eye-catcher.
There are several factors that may entice someone to climb a particular mountain. “Elevation” is a big one – Many strive to climb the highest in the state, the highest in a range, all the 10,000 footers, etc. Other draws include the peak’s prominence, the view from the summit, or the nature of the journey. For Ear Mountain, the trait that piqued my interest more than any other was its strange shape. Ear Mountain first caught my attention from afar as I was driving through the Choteau area on my way to Glacier Park, and then my curiosity grew as I saw photos taken from closer vantage points. But what really “sealed the deal” for me was the aerial photograph at the top of this page. Seeing Ear Mountain’s tilted, flat top, surrounded by sheer cliffs, motivated me to put it at the top of my list for 2014 . . . I did get to climb it that summer with my friend Tim, and enjoyed it so much that I returned with others in 2015, 2016, and 2020. (Photo Tour)
The tricky parts.
The trailhead to Ear Mountain is 125 miles north of Helena. The Summit Post website provides directions for getting to the trailhead and also explains how to get to the top. I’ve always taken the Northeast Shoulder Route, which requires ascending a few hundred yards of steep, loose rock near the top of the shoulder (not for the faint of heart). Some prefer to avoid this by following a “game trail” around the the shoulder (see photo tour for more details). Either way, you end up on a trail across the talus on the backside that leads to a steep couloir lined with big, loose rocks – perhaps the most dangerous part of the trip. I’ve included images in the photo tour to show the route I’ve taken, where to go around the shoulder, and to show what you’re up against when you get to the couloir. The photo captions will tell you more about the “not-so-tricky parts” of the hike as well.
Icing on the cake.
All total the hike is 10 miles round-trip with 3,580 ft. of elevation gain – “difficult” by my standards. But, what a cool place to enjoy some of the best that Montana has to offer! You can look north or south for great views of the Rocky Mountain Front, look west into the Bob Marshall Wilderness, north to the distant peaks of Glacier Park, or east into Charlie Russell Country – endless prairie dotted with island ranges and buttes. For an extra treat, walk around the perimeter of the plateau and search for horned coral that lived 340 million years ago when Montana was the floor of an ancient sea. Clearly, Ear Mountain has much more going for it than just its pretty figure.
Discover the Rocky Mountain Front
For those who are interested in hiking and climbing in/on the Rocky Mountain Front, Tom Kotynski (the guru of hiking in the Great Falls area) has written a book that features over 30 adventures in that area. It’s called Discover the Rocky Mountain Front.
Links – Check these out!
- Photo Tour
My best photos from 4 trips to the top.
- Map of Ear Mountain Area
Zoom in or out, etc.
- More about the Geology of the Rocky Mountain Front
Does not open on many mobile devices.
- Article about Ear Mountain
How it got its name, and much more.