Each time I drive to the park via the Gardiner entrance Emigrant Peak looms in the eastern sky of the Paradise Valley. Emigrant Peak is an impressive geologic structure. It rises steeply more than 6000 feet from the floor the valley. It is a classic, non-technical scramble than rewards climbers with panoramic views of the Beartooth, Gallatin, Madison Range, and Absorka Mountains.
We chose to park at Gold Prize Trail head. To get there follow the road to Dailey Lake and make a left before the dirt road descends to the lake. Follow the trail through a burned out section of forest. The trail then arcs left and climbs steeply to old jeep track. Follow this section of double track until you spot a creek crossing and trail ascending to the right of a stream. This trail will deposit climbers into a large meadow which slowly ramps up in steepness until a large stand of trees.
From the meadow you have two choices. The route described on SummitPost.org and in Turiano’s Select Peaks will have climbers follow a fence line on climber’s left into the trees. We did this and made our way through the trees. This is somewhat of a pain, as the slope is about 40 degrees and is forest floor, which does not offer the best traction.
The other option to aim for a large rock formation on climber’s right of the meadow. Gaining this formation, scrambling over scree and talus begins very quickly.
Either route will deposit climbers on the northwest ridge. The ridge is made up of easy class 2 scrambling over 40 degree talus. There are a few short class 3 sections where use of your hand is necessary, but these are very easy. The final summit ridge is quite exposed, especially in early season when snow makes the ridge a knife edge with 50 degree slopes to either side of the climber.
Ascent Time: 4 hours
We stayed on the NW ridge to take advantage of the scree and avoid the trees, but otherwise retraced our steps.
Descent Time: 3 hours
II Class 2 (Short section of Class 3 scrambling)