Eight Challenging, Guided Hikes in Western Montana
Being on top of the world makes these hikes worth the burning quads
Exploring Montana, Featured
1. Little Spar Lake
Saturday, July 25
This hike might inspire you to look up “spar” in the dictionary (a “friendly argument or boxing match,” according to merriamwebster.com), but the real inspiration will come from the 10-mile trek along one of the most scenic and dramatic stream valleys in the Cabinet Mountains. We’re talking postcard material here, people. You’ll see giant Cedars then skirt below cliffs and blaze through wildlife-rich meadows on this day long outing.
Hike meets at 9 a.m. at the Spar Lake turnoff on Highway 56, 15 miles south of Troy. Sign up here.
2. Rockin’ Geology Hike
Saturday, August 1
Har, har…just one of the many rock jokes to come as Kootenai National Forest geologist Lynn Hagarty explains the interesting formations along the trail. You’ll check out Heidelberg Mine, the Rock Lake Fault, and Belt Formation Rocks on the way to Rock Lake.
Meet at 9 a.m. at the Kootenai National Forest Supervisor’s Office in Libby. Pre-register here.
3. Bunker Creek Views
Saturday, August 15
Spend a day on top of the world! Most of the route will be along ridgelines between 6,800 and 7,500 feet with ample ups and downs and nonstop views. Lunch will be on the ridge above Gildart Lakes, overlooking the Bunker Creek area. Bunker Creek has been recommended as Wilderness by the Forest Service for 30 years and is home to grizzlies, elk, wolverines, and mountain goats. From the ridge, you might be able to see (or hear!) some of these local inhabitants.
Meet up spot is the Napa Point Trailhead at 9 a.m. To get to the Napa Point Trailhead, take Highway 83 to Goat Creek Road near mile marker 59. Napa Point Trailhead is 12 miles from the highway. Pre-register here.
4. Tuchuck Mountain
Sunday, August 23
Bag a peak this weekend! Venture out to Tuchuck Mountain for some legit bragging rights. This hike offers great rewards in the form of views into Glacier/Waterton National Parks and the Whitefish Range. It’s 13.2 miles round trip, so…that’s a half marathon, up a mountain. You might be a tad sore, but your pictures will remind you of the amazingness in our backyard all winter long.
Meeting spot is at the Polebridge Mercantile (bearclaws for breakfast!) at 8 a.m. in Polebridge. Pre-register here.
5. Lost Sheep Lake
Thursday, August 27
Seven strenuous, serene miles in the Mission Mountains is exactly what you’ll want to close out the summer hiking season. Bob Hopkins, along with Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe guides Germaine White and Pablo Espinoza, will lead the climb through a series of shaded switchbacks, then along the rolling upper trail to the lake. It’s a once in a lifetime experience!
Meeting place is the Arlee Community Center in Arlee at 8 a.m. Tribal recreation permits are required and can be purchased at Bob Wards, FWP Regional Office, and Wholesale Sports in Missoula and Cenex in St. Ignatius. Pre-register here.
6. High Lake Trail Clearing and Re-Opening Project Weekend trip!
Friday, August 28-Monday, August 31
Volunteers will join the Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation to clear and repair this long neglected trail in Blodgett Canyon. If Blodgett Canyon isn’t already the photo backdrop on your desktop, it will be with your pictures from this trip! The tower granite cliffs and spires area a spectacular backdrop for the hard, rewarding job of rebuilding blown out switchbacks and installing drainage.
Journey begins at 8 a.m. at the Blodgett Canyon Trailhead west of Hamilton (just follow main street toward the mountains). Pre-register here.
7. Stateline Trail and Heart Lake (Great Burn Study Stewardship)
Saturday, August 29-Sunday, August 30
Looking for a weekend outing but having a tough time getting a good crew together? You’ll be in excellent company on this trip into the proposed Great Burn Wilderness via the Stateline trail. You’ll monitor some mountain goats, invasive weeds, and user impacts. A six-mile traverse along the ridgeline before a steep descent to Dalton Lake will get those quads burning on the first day! The second day will include campsite inventories, lunch, and swimming in Pearl and Heart Lakes and a mellow three-mile hike out via Trout Creek.
Meet bright and early at 8 a.m. at the University of Montana South Park and Ride. Pre-register here.
8. Cube Iron Four Lakes Loop
Saturday, October 3
Maybe it’s just me, but “Cube Iron” sounds like a juicy steak. Plan to stop for one after this hike and maybe clear up the origins of that name with guides Mark and Karen Sheets. This will be a gorgeous fall hike to the summit of Cube Iron via the Four Lakes Loop. The journey winds through the Cube Iron-Silcox roadless area, which will likely be ablaze with fall colors in October.
Join in at 8 a.m. at Wild Goose Park, east side of Thompson Falls. Pre-register here.
- Allison Linville, MWA state council member