Three Prong Mountain by Mike Hays

Elevation: 8,182 ft
Prominence: 862

Nearing the supmmit of Three Prong Mountain. Mike Hays Photo

This peak is found on page 73. The best access is from the Magruder Corridor and Burnt Knob as discussed below. As a result of forest fires and little trail maintenance, the approach trail, FST-539, is in poor shape. In August of 2017, the trail to the first peak on the ridge, White Top Mountain West, had deteriorated even more than discussed below.

Three Prong Mountain is the highpoint in a cluster of closely packed mountains, ridge points, and glacial cirques at the north end of the peculiar ridge that runs north and south, perpendicularly crossing the main Salmon/Clearwater divide. Most major geographic features in the Clearwater and northern Salmon basins run east and west. This ridge system runs over 20 miles and has several points over 8,000 feet. The system reflects the climatic transition from the northern maritime flows of the Clearwater Basin and the southern continental climate of the Salmon Basin through vegetation changes over the length of the ridge. The 8,182-foot mountain has 862 feet of prominence and gets its name from three outcrops protruding from the summit ridge.

Nearing the supmmit of Three Prong Mountain. Mike Hays Photo

Nearing the summit of Three Prong Mountain. Mike Hays Photo

Standard Route, Class 1+

From the trailhead on Burnt Knob, Three Prong Mountain is approximately a 7-mile hike one way. The trail starts off well maintained and easy to follow, due to all the traffic to the three Burnt Knob Lakes. The trail is easy to follow for much of the way beyond the lake basin though the fires have removed all vegetation and turned the ground to ash. In places, there may not be much of a discernable path. About two thirds of the way in, the trail completely vanishes, but the ridge is broad and gentle and there is no question as to where to go. About halfway in, the historic Southern Nez Perce Trail route is crossed, but due to little use and recent hot-burning fire, there is no trace of it to be found on the ridge.

Once the trail is gone, it’s simple to just follow the ridgeline. This has some unnecessary climbing to get up over point 7,820, which is easy to avoid by cutting across the east slope of the point, and then contour around the south aspect of the ridge below point 8,026, while gradually climbing to the broad point 8,136. From here, Three Prong Mountain is an easy, mostly level ridgeline hike through a nice open subalpine fir/whitebark pine forest, carpeted with a heavy blanket of wildflowers. The yellow buckwheat on the rocky outcrops is especially beautiful.

The ridge walk is generally open and easy to follow. Mike Hays Photo

The ridge walk is generally open and easy to follow. Mike Hays Photo

USGS Topo: Three Prong Mountain

Climber Trip Reports

Mountain Range: Southern Clearwater Peaks

Longitude: -114.92679   Latitude: 45.77269

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