Buttercup Mountain

Buttercup Mountain is in the southeast corner of the Smokies, quite near Fairfield.  Access is pretty easy, all but the last few miles of the road in goes past houses and is therefore in good condition.  There are several washouts along the Buttercup Creek Road, and the first one has a bypass around it which requires high clearance and 4WD.  Before you get to the second washout, which is as far up canyon as you can drive, there is a road that forks off to the right, which appears to go up to the ridge we came down.  That might be the easiest route up the mountain, or the road might be impassible in a vehicle.  I don't know.

First washout and bypass

After parking at the second washout, we followed the road up to the old Buttercup mine.  There was no shaft visible, which is not surprising since it is close to population and would present a hazard.  There was a lot of mining detritus lying around, along with the inevitable tailing piles.  From there we bushwhacked and scrambled our way more or less due east towards the ridge, which we gained a few hundred yards northwest of the summit.

mine ruins

The route we followed was steep enough and had enough underbrush and bad footing to make it challenging, but it was not very long - it only took us 3 hours to gain the summit, and we were not going fast.  The way down also featured a lot of talus that was a pain but could have been a lot worse.  Overall, I'd say that this would be a great hike to try someone out who thought he or she would like to climb mountains.  It's a taste of what they will experience on mountains in the high peaks of Idaho, east and south of Idaho 75.

Steve and Abby

The cairn at the top of Buttercup had attracted half the bugs in the county, but 20 feet away they didn't bother you.  There must have been something really good buried there, but we didn't look for it, or a register, or anything.  I just hope it wasn't a human, or part of one.  We followed the southwest ridge ridge down, which was talus but not bad, as talus goes.  We stayed on it until we were just above where we had parked (thanks, Avenza!), which happened to be at the end of a road which came up the ridge from below.  I think this may have been the same road we saw leaving Buttercup canyon between the first and second washouts.

dead tree

We went past quite a few burn areas, but there was relatively little deadfall.  There are cows in the canyon, and everything they leave behind.  Despite the easy access, once we got away from the road there were very few sign of humans. A little less than 6 hours, round trip.