Elevation: 8,938 ft
Buffalo Hump is found on page 70. Thanks to Victor Zhou for this page writeup and photos.
Buffalo Hump is a major summit in the Clearwater Mountains of Central Idaho. Though it falls less than a hundred feet lower than the range’s highpoint, Stripe Mountain, Buffalo occupies a sweet spot in the center of the southern portion of the range, sitting between the Salmon River to the south and the South Fork the Clearwater River to the north. Its expansive views from within the middle of Idaho’s eloquently named Gospel Hump Wilderness bring to a reality the peak’s over 3,400 ft of topographic prominence, which makes it the most prominent peak in the Clearwaters.
Despite its remote status, a road leads to the bravest of drivers to a church camp little more than a mile and around a thousand feet below the summit. Make your way to Grangeville east of town on ID-13 and take a right on the Mt. Idaho Grade road, a shortcut paved road that takes you over a divide and drops you into the narrow canyon of the South Fork Clearwater River. Turn onto ID-14 towards Elk City and follow it east approximately 34 slow and winding miles to the Crooked River Road, a perfectly graded gravel road crossing the river and driving south then southwets 18.6 miles to Orogrande Summit, a rather confusing junction and jumble of intersections.
Here a side road leaves right towards Wildhorse Lake, while the main road veers left to Hump Lake. It is 6 miles to the Hump Lake, your basecamp for the peak, and maybe a mile and a half to the summit from there, so you’re looking at 14-15 miles round trip if you start at the pass/campground. You will drop from almost 7,300 feet down to 6,200 feet at Lake Creek, then gain 2,700 feet to the summit before having to reascend the 1,000 feet plus back to the trailhead.
The road down from Orogrande summit is good for maybe the first half mile, but as of fall of 2014 it deteriorates VERY quickly from there. If you pass up a small parking spot on the left you’ve essentially committed yourself to rolling down the steep and rocky road all the way down to Lake Creek. I managed my 4Runner down and back up and while I made it, I hated and despised every nailbiting minute of it.
The rest of the road from a wide parking section shortly upon bottoming out I can only address from a walker’s perspective; it’s good for a few sections, very rocky in most others, before it ascends a steep headwall that based on other accounts, ranges from see-a-body-shop-if-you-make-it to you’d-be-lucky-to-hitch-a-ride-back-to-Grangeville. Only the combination of the most seasoned jeep drivers and vehicles should attempt it.
The road reaches the upper plateau at Hump Lake, where several modest sized cabins greet you. Be sure to respect private property and follow the road as it bears left and approaches Buffalo Hump’s South Ridge. You’re close to the summit, and the terrain is open and self explanatory. On my way up I followed the road to its end, wandered through some woods and meadows to hit the ridge near its southeastern terminus. On my way down I found a faint, on again off again, yet cairned trail that cut off partially down the ridge and descended through several gorgeous meadows to hit the road slightly closer to the cabins. Nothing worse than class 2, views of myriad lakes and one of Idaho’s great wildernesses.