Kelly Mountain and Jefferson County HP

Elevation: 6,805 ft
Prominence: 575

This peak is not in the book although I skied to its summit several times in the late 1970s and early 1980s. 


Kelly Mountain is a broad hump-shaped peak on the southern edge of the Big Hole Mountains. The Snake River runs along its southern edge. The Kelly Canyon Ski Area is found on the peak’s western flank. The mountain also harbors the highest point in Jefferson County (information for reaching the county high point is found below.)

Rick Bauger, who has ascended the peak more than a thousand times, provided the following trip report and notes on Kelly Mountain. is a 3 mile long volcanic ridgeline located in portions of Jefferson, Madison, and Bonneville Counties, Idaho. The highpoint 6805′ occupies a dramatic overlook of South Fork Snake River Canyon. If you live in the Idaho Falls-Rexburg area this corner of the Big Hole Mountains is your nearest national forest portal. Kelly Canyon attracts all the varied users one expects (or dreads) on lower elevation segments of public land. For this writer, the sweet spot is when the Kelly Canyon Ski Area is in operation, mid Dec thru early March. At this time motorized travel is not permitted in this section of the Caribou-Targhee. The Idaho Falls Ski Club maintains a hut and nordic
trail system in the winter.

All photos 2/26/07 Rick Baugher

kelly mtn Bauger 1

Here’s what Kelly Mountain looks like in full winter dress through the eyes of one user reputed to have made close to 250 ascents.

Out on “the point” the wind can roar like a freight train. Under these conditions a 10 foot cornice will form during a 24 hour blow. New ski tracks disappear in minutes, then, when the wind shifts, tracks made a month earlier are uncovered.

kelly mtn Bauger 2

kelly mtn Bauger 3

REDEMPTION Finding your own “private Idaho” powder stashes means being in the right place at the right time. Enjoy!

Jefferson County HP by Ken Jones

Date: July 8, 2001

Drive: From US Hwy. 26 east of Idaho Falls, take the signed road north toward Heise and the Kelly Canyon recreation area. Follow the paved road to the ski area, and continue on the (now gravel) road to a fork in a saddle at 6230 feet. Turn hard right, and proceed 100 feet or so to another fork; both routes are gated. You want the one on the right. Park.

Hike: Kelly Mountain is a web of ATV tracks and roads. I’m sure there must be a better way than how I went – but this is the only way I know. Pass the right-hand gate and follow the jeep road. You can cut some switchbacks out by taking an ATV track more directly uphill by the first ski lift. After 4 or 5 crossings, the ATV trail merges back into the jeep road. Follow the most major jeep road to its end at the top of another ski lift. (At this point, there is probably a track which would work better than the way I went. You might want to explore, if it’s not starting to rain and get dark.) Here you are on top of the northerly of the two NW-SE trending ridges that make up Kelly Mountain. You need to get to the southerly one. I followed a jeep road SE hoping to find a connection, but didn’t. So I returned to the area by the saddle between the two ridges (by the “N” in “National” on the 7-1/2″ quad) and thrashed my way over to the other ridge. Here, I picked up another track and turned NW. There is a USFS boundary sign and gate when you cross the county line. From here, the road passes north of the 6664′ highpoint, and very close to the 6660’+ one. In both cases, a good fire will be required to remove the vegetation before you’ll be sure which is the highest rock, but the one I picked as most likely is near the 6664′ point in thinner brush, set back a bit from the edge of the plateau overlooking the Snake River Valley.

On my return, I followed another track that seemed to be heading northeast down the draw between the two ridges. I became concerned that it was going too far, and thrashed back to the northerly road. When I hit it, I suspected that I might have come out at the ski lift had I stayed on the track, but it was getting dark, and I wasn’t taking chances.
With the right route, this is probably 3 miles and 1.5 hours. I walked about 5 miles in 2.5 hours. Gain is roughly 500′ if you can avoid some of my ups and downs.

Climber Trip Reports

Mountain Range: Big Hole and Snake River Mountains

Year Climbed: 1980

Longitude: -111.60549   Latitude: 43.62349

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