Elevation: 9,803 ft
Information for Caribou Mountain, a p2k peak, is found on page 371. Below you will find updated and more detailed access and route information. Revised December 2018.
Caribou Mountain is one of the most desirable peaks found in southern Idaho and the highest point in the Caribou Mountains. It has an impressive 3,093 feet of prominence. It is a beautiful peak from any direction, but I think its best side is viewed from the west.
Although I have met only a few people who have climbed it, based on the activity in the register, Caribou Mountain is frequently climbed. This is a surprising fact considering the peak lies in a remote location. I suspect that people climb it from several directions.
From Soda Springs, take ID-34 east for 27.0 miles to the Grays Lake turnoff. Drive north on the paved road that eventually turns to a well-maintained gravel road (Grays Lake Road). From this road, there are two ways to reach the peak’s northwest ridge.
The first option is to drive Grays Lake Road until you reach the signed Willow Creek Road, FS-118, which leads east into the national forest. FS-118 is a rugged, narrow 4WD road that junctions with FS-188 after 4.3 miles. Here, turn left sharply and follow FS-188 for 0.2 miles to a junction with FS-083. FS-083 climbs steeply and is very rocky. (I decided to park at the previously mentioned junction but later decided my 4-Runner would have made the climb.) Follow FS-083 until it levels off at an unmarked junction. The right fork ends at the base of a ridge on the northwest corner of Caribou Mountain at 8,500 feet. I did not explore the left fork but on the national forest map, it looks like you could follow the fork to a ridge on the northeast side of the peak.
The second approach option is to stay on Grays Lake Road for another 6 miles until it junctions with FS-087. Turn right and follow this well-graded, gravel road toward Caribou Mountain, going up and over a low pass. Turn right at the signed Barnes Creek Road/FS-188 junction. Head the well-worded warning about driving this road when it’s wet. The road is rutted, rocky, and requires a high-clearance 4WD and should not be used when wet. It is 4 miles to the FS-083 discussed above.
Google Maps will direct you to this area from Idaho Falls as well as Soda Springs. Whether using Google or my directions, make sure you take a forest service map along for the ride as there is little-to-no cell phone service available.
Northwest Cirque Traverse, Class 2
This route traverses the cirque, which is located on the northwest side of the peak (see Margo’s track below). From the road’s end, hike south across large talus to the base of the ridge that forms the west wall of the cirque. Climb up this ridge through areas of forest and talus. As you proceed upward, you will climb on fairly stable, continuous talus.
After summiting, we descended via a trail across the cirque that we spotted on the way up. We found the tread after dropping halfway down the slope. The tread continues upwards past the point where we found it, but I’m not sure how high it actually goes. However, ascending this trail and the slope after the trail ends would get you to the summit without too much difficulty.
Once we reached the road in the bottom of the forested cirque, we followed it down the valley until we came to a spot where the forest opened up a bit and there was a grassy, talused, low-angle slope to the west. We left the road, walked up the short slope, and had a clear view across a talus field to our starting point. My GPS showed our route was 10 miles long with 1,900 feet of elevation gain.
Ken Jones Ascent Trip Report from August 26, 2011
I drove Spur 083 (unmapped, but signed on the ground) to just below 6600′ on the northwest ridge of the peak. Then, I followed that ridge as it curves to the summit, staying a bit below the crest due to some clouds early on (one lightning strike during my hike, a mile or so away).
I could see what looked to be bits of a trail dropping into the basin NW of the summit, so I dropped down and picked that up. If you look at the attached GPS track, where my downward path becomes a traverse almost north is where I hit the trail, and I followed it through two switchbacks below there.
Comments on this trail: It appears to have once been a constructed trail, probably to the summit (although I did not follow it uphill after finding it). It drops into the trees and crosses some ATV tracks. Not far below the ATV tracks there appeared to be a 4WD road, but I don’t know where it comes from. It may be the left fork of Spur 083, but that is ditched and ripped perhaps 50 yards after the northwest ridge fork goes right.
The roads (118 and 188) to reach Spur 083 (I came in on 118, and headed out to the north on 188) are both in pretty bad shape, and probably require a 4WD vehicle such as I used.