Distance: 16.5 km
Elevation gain: 575 m View map Download GPS track
A reasonably long hike, a summit with views, and scenic variety make Coral Mountain a surprisingly pleasant early season hike.
The trail begins on a gated old road on the north side of Highway 532 where Willow Creek crosses the highway. The trail follows this old road for about 4.5 km before turning off towards the west and heading for Coral Mountain. Finding the correct turnoff point is critical, so take a look at the pictures where I describe this in more detail. If you download the GPS track above, the more southerly route is the correct route; the northern route was a comparative disaster of deadfall, swamps, and knee-deep post-holing in snow at this time of year.
Once off the old road the route aims directly for left (south) edge of Coral Mountain. Game and cow trails litter the area; don't let them confuse you. Stay generally on the south side of the (very) minor hill to avoid as much snow as possible and do not cross to the northern side. Assuming you've navigated correctly, after a few kilometers of generally level travel you will emerge into a fairly large meadow. Coral Mountain looms ahead and shortly the route will steepen considerably.
There is no set route by which to ascend the mountain, although ascending directly from the south will give a rather spectacular view of the summit. It is steeper than a more easterly ascent, however. Views from the summit are excellent for a shoulder season hike, extending as far as one can see east onto the prairie and west to Hailstone Butte
and Sentinel Peak. Wildlife is also prolific in the area. Based on the number of droppings there are large herds of sheep, elk, and deer; we didn't see any, but did see a hare and two partridge. Wolves are also common and signs warn that they are being trapped and that dogs should be kept on leash to avoid being trapped as well. In season it also appears that cows populate the area.