Ascent of Stratford Hill on 2016-08-12

Climber: John Hasch

Date:Friday, August 12, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Stratford Hill
    Elevation:4971 ft / 1515 m

Ascent Trip Report

Stratford Hill
4971 ft. BM

Friday, 8/12/2016

Before the Konvention, I made plans to visit Yellowstone County because it is one of the easier one-contour counties in the lowlands on the eastern side of the state. Today, with nothing else on my agenda, I decided to make the trip.

I was traveling from Red Lodge, which meant an approach from the west. Previous trip reports discussed approaching the highpoint from the north, from I-90 in Billings. I was prepared to travel to Billings to follow those notes. But when I set my car GPS for the Stratford Hill coordinates, I was presented with a different route. I quickly reviewed the overall route given; in print, it sounded reasonable, so I decided to give it a try. I took a few notes along the way, and when I got back to my computer I improved the report with more exact information. This is a new route that is recommended for all who might approach Stratford Hill from the west.

From the roundabout in Red Lodge, I drove northeast on US 212 toward Billings. After about 42 miles, you will come to Thiele Road on the right. This will be just before you cross the Yellowstone River, about 1.5mi before the junction with I-90.

Turn right (east) and follow the river on your left for about 2mi. Take the road as it bends left (northeast). This is now River Road, and the Yellowstone River continues its course on your left, though initially quite a distance from the road. Continue on River Road for about 4.6mi until it terminates at Duck Creek Road.

Turn right (southeast) and follow Duck Creek Road. The first 2.8mi takes you to the end of pavement, and the last 4.2mi is on dirt and gravel. The road will trend south, and after the 7mi segment, you will arrive at a T-intersection with Hillcrest Road on your left. (You may recognize Hillcrest Road as one of the two main ways to reach the highpoint from the northern approach from Billings).

Turn left (east) on Hillcrest Road, and continue on this road as it turns left (north). After about 1.4mi, turn right (east) on Stratford Hill Road. Follow this road for about 7.2mi on a winding course that generally heads south. The end of this stretch has you at the intersection with Cormier Road and Stratford Hill Road. Find a reasonable place to park, and let the foot journey begin.

The highpoint is to the southwest of this intersection, about .5-.75mi in the distance. You will have to cross a barbed wire fence to enter the open pasture. But a stout fence in the corner makes it relatively easy to cross.

I had my compass to keep me on a general southwest course. However, others had mentioned a windsock that was near the highpoint. I carefully scanned the horizon. Then I spotted it, right from the start. The windsock was visible just above the ridgeline, and I hiked directly toward it without difficulty.

As I approached the windsock, I could confirm that the sock was located at a fenced-in area. As I got closer, I could see that it was a family cemetery. Once I arrived at the highpoint area, my first destination was to wander around the outside of the fence and examine the various headstones that were readable. One had the name Katherine Stratford on it, likely of the family who had given their name to the approach road. I took a few photos and made locating the benchmark my next task.

From the cemetery fence, the benchmark is located a brief (100ft?) walk north. Located next to a large rectangular boulder, “BM Blue 1925” was easily found. I took some more photos. Then I walked over to the edge of the mesa and looked to the valley below. It was a clear day, and I could see for miles to the south and southwest. Satisfied, I headed back to the car.

The total round trip was about 1.2mi, completed in a leisurely 35-40min. Total gain was only 71ft, making this a relatively flat stroll.

I estimate that this approach saved me about an hour compared to what it would take to travel to Billings before dropping south on the previous reported approaches. I would heartily recommend my approach for any future hikers who are in Red Lodge or who are traveling from that area.

This highpoint was my morning trek. In the afternoon, I drove back to Red Lodge. I continued west and did a touristy thing: I drove the Beartooth Highway up over the Beartooth Pass toward Yellowstone National Park. I did not make it all the way to Yellowstone; I cut my journey short so I could make it back to Red Lodge in time for the 5:00pm Konvention social outing.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:71 ft / 20 m
    Extra Gain:9 ft / 2 m
    Round-Trip Distance:1.2 mi / 1.9 km
    Route:Head southwest toward windsock
    Trailhead:Corner of Stratford Hill/Cormier Roads  4918 ft / 1499 m
    Quality:2 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Open Country
    Weather:Pleasant, Clear
Warm and sunny
Ascent Statistics
    Time:16 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:16 Minutes

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