Teton County Highpoint Trip Report

Dates: 2003-2004 (see below)
Author: Jerry Brekhus

hikers include Betty and Jerry Brekhus

Garns Mountain

Dates: September 19, 2003 and August 17, 2004
sixteen miles or so round trip; 3,290 feet of vertical elevation gain

The trailhead that we used for this one is probably easiest to find by going past Heise and Kelly Mountain Ski Area. A mile past the county line at the Kelly Mountain Ski Area, the Kelly Canyon Road reaches a saddle just above 6200 feet. Here Forest Road 218, to your left, begins. Set your trip odometer to zero. Follow FR 218 shown on the Targhee National Forest map as a primitive road but actually a pretty good, graded road. Road signs are few and far between but most side roads are obviously less traveled and less maintained. Between 2 and 2.5 miles you will see a couple of side roads to the left; keep right to stay on FR 218. The road to the trailhead is signed as 651. It should show pretty close to 10 miles on your odometer. Turn right (east) on this road and go about 2 miles to the end of the road where parking, turn-around, and toilet are located along with the trailhead.

Now for the hike itself. These instructions are for Garns Mountain only. If you plan to combine Garns with Piney Peak and/or Red Butte, see the Piney Peak paragraphs of this report and see also the Madison County trip reports.

Head out on the trail toward Thousand Springs Valley. At the first trail junction, turn left, still heading for 1000 Springs Valley (unless you have decided to first pick up Red Butte). On our 2003 attempt at Garns, when we reached the junction near spot elevation 7547 (Temple Peak Quad on the section line between Sections 17 and 20), we headed uphill northeast and traveled on the ridge eventually reaching Blacktail Pass across a stretch with no visible trail. By then it was getting late in the afternoon so we returned to the trailhead leaving Garns Mountain for another day.

This year we did not turn uphill near spot elevation 7547 but continued straight down 1000 Springs Valley. When we came to a junction for Castle Lake, we did not go to the lake but went to the left on a trail that leads to Blacktail Pass. As mentioned in the trip report by Ken Jones, the trails in this area are generally ATV trails. Beyond Blacktail Pass, Garns Mountain comes into view. There are a couple of junctions but it should be apparent which way to go. We spent a few minutes locating the benchmark and checking the highest rock but did not tarry long because of growing thunderheads just to the east. We had been descending only a few minutes when we heard loud rumbles of thunder. Glad to be off the summit, we hiked back to our car without incident.

Piney Peak

Date: September 7, 2004
seventeen miles round trip; 4,530 feet of vertical elevation gain

We hiked to Piney Peak from a trailhead by a girls' camp accessed off Highway 31. It is at West Pine Creek. Park just outside the camp at the lot provided. Hike on the trail skirting the camp on the west side. If you look carefully when a gap in the trees allows, you might see what could be the longest amusement slide in Idaho, built on a hillside at the camp.

On this trail, we wet our feet several times at crossings of West Pine Creek. Spring is probably not a good season for this trail. About 3.6 miles up the trail, we turned 90 degrees left and headed up Trail Creek Canyon. A trail was visible continuing straight, not shown on our maps. After a steep half-mile or so, observe a trail coming in from the left. Pay attention to this trail to avoid taking it by mistake on your descent. You could come out somewhere other than where your truck is parked. You continue on the trail which will trend northwest past Black Mountain and then skirt Chicken Peak and Liars Peak or go directly over them as you choose.

If the weather is clear, Piney Peak will afford you a marvelous view of the Trois Tetons in Wyoming.

Oliver Peak

Date: October 11, 2004
eleven miles round trip; 3,080 feet of vertical elevation gain

To get to the trailhead from Victor, Idaho, drive 3.9 miles south from the junction with Highway 31 on Highway 33. Turn right on road signed as Forest Road 330. (We missed this turn and realized it when shortly beyond we saw a "Welcome to Wyoming" sign. Approaching from Wyoming, we easily spotted the turn because it is marked by a sign pointing to Mike Harris Campground.) Once your on FR 330, within 0.1 mile turn left immediately after crossing the bridge over Trail Creek. Just another 0.1 mile at the entrance to Mike Harris Campground there is an old road blocked by a pipe driven into the ground. There is room to park one vehicle there. The trail was marked as Trail 203 on mostly broken down signs. The trail is this old road until you reach Mikesell Canyon in a half mile.

We carried sneakers for stream crossings but Mikesell Canyon was dry so we cached our sneakers at the mouth of the canyon. A well-maintained trail climbs to near both Oliver Peak and the unnamed summit 3/4 mile south. In Section 6 there is a fork in trail. Take the left fork to climb toward Oliver Peak. The other fork soon starts to descend significantly. Near the summits, a few hundred feet of vertical is gained on off-trail hiking on each of the two peaks. They each rise about 500 feet from the saddle between them. Note that the Victor 7.5 minute quad has 80-foot contour intervals in this area. Betty entered our names in the register found in a small film canister in the cairn on Oliver Peak, noting that Ken Jones was registered. On the south peak, industrious ants have added about 5 inches to the elevation.


Our total effort on Teton County included some 50 miles of hiking and more than 12,000 feet of vertical gain spread over four trips over a year's time -- a lot for the second smallest county in the state. However, we were rewarded with some fine views of the Tetons and some great hikes, not just a county highpoint. As to which is the true high point, I detected no clear winner among the four peaks. Better hike them all before claiming Teton County.