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U.S. Forest Service

Northern Region Viewing Area


botrychium lunaria. Botrychium lunaria. Photo source: Linh Hoang.

castilleja rhexiifolia. Castilleja rhexiifolia. Photo source: Linh Hoang.

Chain Lakes at Lake Mountain. Chain Lakes at Lake Mountain. Photo source: Linh Hoang.

Larix layallii at the Chain Lakes. Larix layallii at the Chain Lakes. Photo source: Linh Hoang.

penstemon ellipticus. Penstemon ellipticus. Photo source: Linh Hoang.

Lake Mountain

Forest: Flathead National Forest

District: Glacier View Ranger District

Description: A rigorous hike to the top of Lake Mountain to experience subalpine and alpine splendor. The trail passes through mountain meadows, forested habitats, and loose scree that are full of wildflowers such as bear grass (Xerophyllum tenax), smooth woodrush (Luzula glabrata), rocky ledge penstemon (Penstemon ellipticus), wormleaf stonecrop (Sedum stenopetalum), slender mountain sandwort (Arenaria capillaris), and yellowdot saxifrage (Saxifraga bronchialis). This hike also passes through whitebark pine habitat, a declining habitat in northwest Montana. A highlight of this hike is that this is one of the few places on the Forest to touch and feel subalpine larch (Larix lyallii) – the needles feel like the rubbery koosh ball toy, silky and rubbery! In addition the hike offers beautiful, small alpine lakes lined with ice and snow almost year round. Hikers will view at the saddle subalpine fleabane (Erigeron peregrinus), splitleaf Indian paintbrush (Castilleja rhexiifolia), and bracted lousewort (Pedicularis bracteosa). In addition, there are many species of unusual and rare moonworts. Look closely on the east facing open rocky face switchbacks that drop down from Lake Mt. saddle. Viewing is best from late July to mid-August.

Safety First: Bring plenty of water – the hike is longer than is looks on a map – plan all day. Grizzly and black bear inhabit the area. Several precautions can reduce the risk of negative encounters with wildlife: 1) Hike in groups; 4 or more people is best. 2) Make plenty of noise. This alerts wildlife to your presence and gives animals an opportunity to depart. 3) Stay alert. 4) Do not approach wildlife. Back away or take a different route if wildlife are encountered. 5) Carry pepper spray.

Directions: From the town of Olney, MT, take State Road 487 (east), stay on this and follow signs to upper Whitefish Lake – go past Upper Whitefish towards Red Meadow divide – at the divide there is a road that takes off to the northwest. Park there and hike up the road or brave driving up the road (.5-1 mile to end of road). Trailhead is on the east side (right hand side).

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Flathead National Forest, Glacier View Lake Ranger District, (406) 387-3800.

Closest Town: Olney and Whitefish, Montana.