For anyone who has wondered why the mountain northwest of Cody is known as Mooncrest Peak, photographer Dewey Vanderhoff’s image from a recent December morning provides an answer.

“The full moon closest to the Winter Solstice always sets on or very near Mooncrest peak,” he wrote in an email to WyoFile. “I’m surmising that’s how the summit got its Anglo name (the Natives called it Blue Bead Mountain).”

Circumstances lined up just right for this image of the “Cold Moon,” which refers to the December full moon, Vanderhoff said. 

It was sunrise, which meant that the sun briefly lit up the iconic Red Butte during the small window of time the moon hung above the horizon. 

Conditions, Vanderhoff said, were “serendipitous.” 

Do you have a striking photo of winter in Wyoming? Submit high-resolution entries to WyoFile’s Cold Snap Challenge by emailing them to editor@wyofile.com under the subject line “Winter photos.” Be sure to tell us when and where the images were taken. We’ll gather the images and publish our favorites through the winter.

Katie Klingsporn

Katie Klingsporn is WyoFile's managing editor. She is a journalist and word geek who has been writing about life in the West for 15 years. Her pieces have appeared in Adventure Journal, National Geographic...

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  1. Great photo, although the mountain pictured is called Pat O’Hara Peak, not “Mooncrest Peak”. A benchmark placed in 1947 on Pat O’Hara Peak was named for nearby Mooncrest Ranch. (https://www.ngs.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/ds_pid.prl/2). This makes a little more sense than where the moon sets in just one moment of the year from one particular location (e.g., 10 miles south on the same day, the peak wouldn’t be near much of a ‘mooncrest’ at all.).