Montana Outdoors

July 10, 2008

Penrose Peak, Part 5

From the saddle where I spent a cool but comfortable night under an ink-black sky chock full of pure white stars which are ever so much brighter in the high country, there are two routes that may be taken to get to Penrose, and they converge about a mile and a half before the final climb to the peak at another saddle on the ridge at 5,700 feet. The old road takes a slow steady route down to that point while the trail climbs to 6,500 feet, then descends quite rapidly back down 800 feet to meet the road.

The road affords no good views because of the forest cover, but the topographic maps showed that the trail, at its crest, ran along the edge of some very steep country which should have afforded some views. I took the trail. (Incidentally, for those who might be interested, there are two topographic maps that cover this area quite well, the Sunset Peak Quadrangle, Montana, 7.5-Minute Series and the Penrose Peak Quadrangle, Montana. 7.5-Minute series.)

The following photos, with just a few comments, will provide a sample of what it’s like to travel this route.

I know I’m posting a lot of photos and up to and including most of the ones in this post, they haven’t been terribly interesting. Not all of a trip like this is terribly interesting, but that’s part of the whole experience and I have attempted to show that part of it too. In the rest of the posts, on the final climb up to the peak, the trail gets out of and/or above the trees and the views become clearer.

To the southwest of the trail, Montana’s Bitterroot range is visible at the skyline.

View to the west

Rest stop along the trail. (Actually, that is the trail and an illustration of the value of blaze marks!)

Rest stop along the trail

Another look toward the southwest

View to the west

The peaks, with Penrose on the left are now getting closer. Just past this point the trail becomes tantalizing because it is starting to descend while the peak seems to be growing taller.

The peaks

Unknown species of flowers along the trail.

Unknown wildflowers

Peeking at the peaks.

Peeking at the peaks

On the right side of the ridge to the northeast, this view is especially significant to me. The deep Eddy Creek canyon leading down to the Clark Fork River is a major terrain feature which is helpful while navigating in these parts. The canyon up through the mountains on the other side of the valley is the Munson Creek Canyon inside the TeePee – Spring Creek Roadless area in the Cabinet Mountains. Last summer I hiked the entire 6 miles of it from the river level to the 6,900 foot high ridge at the skyline and wrote several posts about the trip.

View to the northeast

To the north, with the Cabinets to the far right and the high country of the roadless area center.

View to the north

Toward the east across what used to be a beautiful section of forest, Baldy Mountain is at the skyline, center. Sadly, however, the brownish cast over large areas of the forest are trees dying from Pine and Fir beetle infestations brought on by the 7 years of drought that we’ve just had.

To the east of trail 385

The last two photos were taken looking into the area of the high peaks and show in the foreground why the topo maps showed very steep ground.

The high peaks

The high peaks

Starting with the photos in the next post I think it will start to become clear why it was worth all of this effort to hike to Penrose Peak.


  1. What a great camp location! It was certainly worth the hike.


    Comment by scienceguy288 — July 11, 2008 @ 7:25 am

  2. Yes, it’s a great place to spend some time. The only downside for camping more than a couple of nights is that you have to carry all your water into it.


    Comment by montucky — July 11, 2008 @ 7:47 am

  3. Beautiful setting. I’m eagerly watching each episode as you post it.


    Comment by wolf — July 11, 2008 @ 1:51 pm

  4. Thanks, Wolf!

    I’m probably including more details and descriptions than those who usually read my stuff really want to see, but there is practically nothing about this area available on line and I hope it will help someone who is looking for info on that specific peak.


    Comment by montucky — July 11, 2008 @ 2:03 pm

  5. Looks like a good trip, one of those where it’s not too likely you’re going to run into a bunch of noisy people drinking beer and playing loud music out in the woods.



    Comment by knightofswords — July 11, 2008 @ 2:47 pm

  6. what are the blaze marks?

    and you just couldn’t resist including some photos of that pretty little flower could you? 🙂

    I like the one w/ the pine trees, 3rd to last.


    Comment by silken — July 11, 2008 @ 5:01 pm

  7. Knight,

    or leaving trash. Nice to know there are still places around where those things don’t happen, isn’t it!


    Comment by montucky — July 11, 2008 @ 6:07 pm

  8. Silken,

    Blaze marks are notches or deep and large cut marks on trees every so often along a trail so that it can always be found. They are made with axes (or hatchets) and will last for many years if done properly. In my next post there is a photo of a blaze mark on a tree which has been dead for many years, but still shows the mark: that one is probably 80 years old at last.

    Nope, can’t resist the flowers! It’s interesting how many there are in the high country and also that the ones blooming there now bloomed nearly 2 months ago at the valley level.


    Comment by montucky — July 11, 2008 @ 6:32 pm

  9. I’m embarrassed to say that I just caught up on 11 posts. It’s been a busy spring/summer already with more busy-ness to come! You never cease to amaze me with your gorgeous landscape and wildflower pictures. You do Montana proud! Can’t wait to visit one day.


    Comment by Jennifer — July 12, 2008 @ 4:02 am

  10. It’s been busy here, too. I’ve had a hard time fitting in the trips I want to make. We’re getting into fire season already now and it looks like that will take up even more time.

    I know you would have a great time looking around Montana’s back country! I hope you do get a chance to visit!


    Comment by montucky — July 12, 2008 @ 7:07 am

  11. I think such a total immersion in the beauty of Montana would be conducive to spiritual awakening and renewal.


    Comment by Tabbie — July 12, 2008 @ 5:07 pm

  12. It can certainly do that, Tabbie. The completely uninterrupted solitude and the awesome beauty of the unspoiled natural world automatically creates a kind of focus on what’s true and what’s not and it becomes easier to measure the relative importance or unimportance of the elements of consciousness.


    Comment by montucky — July 12, 2008 @ 7:34 pm

  13. It sounds exactly like what I need right about now.


    Comment by Tabbie — July 12, 2008 @ 8:20 pm

  14. I think we all do, Tabbie!


    Comment by montucky — July 12, 2008 @ 8:45 pm

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