Sunday, July 15, 2012


StormCastle is a prominence in the Gallatin National Forest / Gallatin Mountain range about 25 miles south of Bozeman, Montana. StormCastle's crumbling yet majestic rock peak is easily spotted from the Gallatin Canyon and instantly explains the well-described name.

From the trail-head elevation of 5400 Feet to the summit at 7480 Feet, the 2.5 mile hike to the top is continuously uphill and steady. Drifting from switchbacks amongst juniper and loaded with scree to dense lodgepole pine and ferns, the trail has a large variety of terrain as well as views. Wildflowers are abundant in the meadows, while chipmunks run rampant through the boulders, cliffs, and rocky fields.

Once near the summit, the trail enters the darkest portion of forest with a pine needle covered floor. The blue sky peeks through the trees from every direction and the exposed rock forms a long wall on the Eastern side leading to the top.

View from just below the summit to the sheer face crags to the east. Squaw creek flows through the valley in the foreground from the peaks in distant center.

This is a view through the natural "keyhole" on the eastern crags. The drop-off from the edge is a sheer 400 foot plunge which explains the "belly rubs" on the ground leading to the edge.

The Spanish Peaks provide the south and western backdrop while the Gallatin River splits the Madison and Gallatin Ranges. This is prime grizzly country and sightings are often. The drop from the edge of the summit is well over 600 feet and is comprised of aged and crumbling rock. Caution is critical on the edges, but the views are just as stunning from a few feet back.

Total time for the hike and a snack while taking in the views is about 3 hours. I recommend dipping your feet in the icy cold Squaw Creek near the trail-head or further down in the Gallatin River itself. A great reward for a great hike!