Elevation: 13,153 ft.
Prominence: 4,056 ft.
Isolation: 48 miles
Technical Difficulty: Class 2
Francs Peak Guidebook
Francs Peak is the highpoint of the Absaroka Range, the heart of Rocky Mountain grizzly bear territory and part of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Unlike most of Wyoming’s alpine ranges, the Absarokas lack the alpine lakes, granite cirques, and lush valleys, offering vast rolling plateaus and volcanic spires instead. Almost all peak-climbing activity in the Absaroka Range is concentrated on Francs Peak, which is indicative of the fact that most hikers only go to the Absarokas to check off this peak. Luckily, Francs represents the range well, with plenty of geological features characteristic of the breccia and ash fields deposited by the Yellowstone supervolcano, and plenty of grizzly bears roaming its flanks.
The grizzly bears are by far the greatest objective hazard on Francs Peak. Almost everyone who climbs the peak sees bears near the summit, and bears use the same trails as hikers. A hiker was mauled on Francs Peak and airlifted out of the area while attempting to climb the mountain in 2022. Bear spray and/or firearms should be carried in such a way as to be rapidly available when traveling in the Absarokas. Francs Peak happens to be the easiest of the Wyoming 13ers and is almost always climbed as a day-hike, which is good, since backpacking in an area with such a high density of grizzlies is not recommended.
Route 1: North Ridge – Class 2
The most difficult part of this route is driving up the road! From the town of Meeteetse, endless dirt roads wind through the Pitchfork Ranch, a giant cattle operation which was established by Otto Franc, an early Wyoming cattle baron for whom the peak is named. The Phelps Mountain Road begins on State land near some oil wells, where there is a parking/staging area.
From here, the 4wd road immediately climbs up steep and rocky switchbacks to the plateau of Phelps Mountain, where it winds across grassy meadows for several miles above treeline. The makes a bend and effectively ends around 11,000 ft., which marks the de facto trailhead.
The hike begins with a thousand feet of grassy slopes to gain Francs Peak’s north ridge. After traversing around or over Reef Benchmark (Point 12490), continue along the undulating ridge past Point 12509 and Point 12578. The ridge narrows and requires clambering through some rocky sections between Point 12578 and Point 12815, and bear trails through this area are a good reminder that you are not alone. The final ascent to the summit involves a few hundred feet of hiking over volcanic sand reminiscent of the Andes.
Route 2: South Ridge – Class 2
Drive up the dirt road that runs along the Wood River, which involves unbridged stream crossings that could be challenging for some vehicles depending on the season. A trail follows Meadow Creek up from the Wood River to the above-treeline Meadow Creek Basin. From here, climb up onto the high plateau of Francs Peak’s north ridge and traverse along the broad, gently undulating ridge to reach the summit cone from the south. This route, while longer than Route 1, is preferred by those who do not wish to drive the challenging Phelps Mountain Road.
Francs Peak Map
Click title to show trackNorth Ridge Route
South Ridge Route
Francs Peak Panorama
Francs Peak Photos
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