Yellowstone National Park (Montana Section) Highpoint Trip Report

Electric Peak (10,969 ft)

Date: September 7, 2007
Author: Jim Perkins

Directions to Trailhead

At MM 8 on Hwy 89 (about 46 miles from I-90, X-333) near the boundary of Yellowstone National Park and just North of Gardiner, turn East and cross the Yellowstone River on the steel bridge in Corwin Springs. Then, turn South on the Gardiner Back Road, which parallels the river and proceed 3.4 miles to the Beattie Gulch Trailhead. Easy so far.

By the way, you do not need to enter YíStone Park or have any special permits for this approach. For more info, call the Gardiner Ranger District: (406) 848-7375.

My advice is to park here at Beattie Gulch TH, suit up, walk back up the Gardiner Back Road about 400 yards and start from the road heading West, which is chained, locked shut, says "Road Closed", but is otherwise quite inviting. This is the road to Forbesí Cabin, your first real landmark on this ten mile route to the top.

I started my trek at 5am and made a few errors initially, as there are a few "roads" to choose from in the dark. If you are on a "road" and thoughts like, "Yeah, this was a road maybe 20 years ago" cross your mind, then stop, go back to the last decision point and stay on the real road. The road to Forbes Cabin can be accessed by a normal vehicle. However, one hint would be that once you cross the irrigation ditch stay to your right and aim for the next chained shut fence with the prominent "Restricted Road Use" sign. I believe there are three chained fences in all to the cabin.

From the first, chained fence at Gardiner Back Road, it took me about two hours (5 miles?) to make the obvious cabin. I saw the largest bull elk (a Royal Crown?) and several cow elk on my way up the road and was treated to constant bugling. Also, there are several spots were trails take off from the road. If you stay near the fluorescent orange-topped, white boundary posts (BPís), you will end up OK, back on the road. Taking the trails on the way down saved me about 45 minutes from the Cabin. By the way, these BPís proved very valuable later on today.

Once I reached Forbesí, I made a right expecting about another two miles. Hah! Try 5 miles. If you follow the abandoned road thru the deadfall and burn section, you will arrive at a small, metal sign that says, "Electric Peak Trail, 4.8 miles". Another heads up is that the cabin marks about 2,000 feet of gain. I still had another 3,757 feet of gain to the top. From here, this trail is a hard one to follow. However, I did not lose much elevation and aimed for the grassy hill section above tree line. The BPís can be helpful guides.

I have to stop for just a second and say that of all the 40+ hikes Iíve done this year, this grassy meadow section to Electric had the perfect terrain (cushy alpine grass), the perfect steepness (around 15% to 20%), and no guessing as to the objective. Iím not sure I can fully describe the joy, the overwhelming joy it was to descend this section. Anyway, I aimed for the right most highpoint to avoid the straight up scree to Electric. But, I did do some "scree falliní" on the way down. And, with storm clouds to motivate. SWEEEEEET! Make sure to have your gaiters, by the way.

Once making it through the last 500 feet of rock to the rightmost HP, which actually had a journal and marker, I followed the ridge and skirted the backside to finally reach Electric. I was a little confused at this point as my GPS was reading 11,206 feet and Electric is suppose to be 10,969 feet, but the write-up said that Electric is the highest point in the Gallatin Range. There was nothing higher around me, so I called it good, although I did take photos here, at the point next to this one with the cairn marker and at the first, rightmost HP. Iím pretty sure I got it covered.

Time from car to top was 5:20, with 5,757 feet of gain in about 10 miles. Time from top to car was 3:45 with the scree skiiní on Electricís face, and then trailiní instead of roadiní after Forbes. Stay close to the BPís and you will save mucho time.

One last note. Something that had never happened to me before, happened to me on this trek. In the middle of one of my loud breathing exercises on the trail down, I heard a very large animal make a mad dash through the brush. As my eyes focused, I saw a mama black bear moving in the opposite direction (Thank you, LORD!!) and her cub about 20í in a tree, right on the trail. So, what would you do? Exactly, instead of my gun, I grabbed my digital and clicked off about 10 pics as the little shaver shimmied down the pine. Man, are those guys strong.

Oh, and what else would you do if you saw a bear in the woods? No, my wife doesnít want dead animal hides in the house. And no, I didnít have to use toilet paper. Thatís right. I proceed to go retro and bushwacked waaaaaay around this spot in the trail. Adrenalin can be very helpful.