Montana Outdoors

October 12, 2009

Priscilla Peak, along the lower trail.

On Thursday October 8th, after looking forward to it for months, a friend and I hiked up to the old lookout atop 7005 foot Priscilla Peak in the Cabinet Mountains of western Montana. The peak itself is in the Sundance Ridge roadless area in Lolo National Forest and the lookout, which was constructed in the 1930’s, has sweeping, 360° views of many miles of the area’s back country.

There are two trail approaches to the peak and we chose the one from the southeast, USFS trail 433. It is an aggressive trail which has a total altitude gain of 4,400 feet spread over its five mile ascent to the peak, starting at 2,600 feet, about 3.5 miles past the West Fork of Thompson River or approximately 10 miles from Montana Highway 200. It is marked only by a Forest Service “hiking trail” sign without the advantage of having the trail number indicated. It’s up the the traveler to understand that it is the only trail around that heads toward the peak, although about a mile up the trail the trail number does appear on a small plastic diamond trail marker (the only one on the whole trail).

The attached photos were taken from the lower section of the trail where it climbs rapidly to around 4,600 feet through a long series of switchbacks to a high ridge that it follows to a point just before it ascends to the peak itself.

From Priscilla Peak trail

The sun rising over the high ridges to the south of Thompson River.

From Priscilla Peak trail

The over night temperatures in the lower 20’s left a frosty meadow on one of the shelves above the canyon, but maintained a comfortable temperature for a strenuous hike.

From Priscilla Peak trail

From Priscilla Peak trail

Taken facing to the south, these two photos capture the high country overlooked by the Big Hole lookout next to Big Hole Peak and the high country of the TeePee/Spring Creek roadless area. The lookout sits at 6,900 feet atop the third peak from the right.

From Priscilla Peak trail

Near the top of the major section of switchbacks and the start of the high ridge, this view is to the southwest looking down the Thompson River canyon. The mountain in the distance is in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains to the south of the Clark Fork River.

My next post will include some of the views from roughly the center section of the trail.


  1. What a hike! Beautiful country! I bet is is exhilarating to be in the wilderness like that. I love the frosty meadow photo…gorgeous.


    Comment by Anna Surface — October 12, 2009 @ 10:55 am

    • It’s always a wonderful experience, Anna. Nothing that I know is quite like it.


      Comment by montucky — October 12, 2009 @ 4:22 pm

  2. You surely have better stamina than I do, but aren’t you the one rewarded with such great views.


    Comment by Bo Mackison — October 12, 2009 @ 2:50 pm

    • Yes Bo, the views are an ample reward, and there are many more on top of it. I’m thrilled to see the natural
      wild country as it has been for thousands of years, and the symphony of silence, accented occasionally by the wind in the trees is a reward all to itself.


      Comment by montucky — October 12, 2009 @ 4:27 pm

  3. Looks like a fun hike! I wish I could get my boots on some mountain sides.


    Comment by scienceguy288 — October 12, 2009 @ 4:42 pm

  4. Wow…what blue sky! Lovely…especially the frosty one!


    Comment by Stacey - Addicted to The Click — October 12, 2009 @ 7:46 pm

    • It was a crisp, clear, cold and wonderful morning. Good to see frost again.


      Comment by montucky — October 12, 2009 @ 9:01 pm

  5. Makes my legs cramp up just thinking about that hike. Thanks for taking us with you. It’s beautiful.


    Comment by SuzieQ — October 12, 2009 @ 7:56 pm

    • I have to work to stay in shape for hikes like that, but it’s so worth while to me. I get to see wild country that few people get out to see.


      Comment by montucky — October 12, 2009 @ 9:03 pm

  6. i LOVE a frosty meadow as long as i’m looking at it in a beautiful photograph like this one!


    Comment by kcjewel — October 12, 2009 @ 8:04 pm

    • It was nice walking through that area, but probably not as nice to sit and look at those temperatures.


      Comment by montucky — October 12, 2009 @ 9:05 pm

  7. Excellent series, Terry. I particularly like the frost meadow image. Captured beautifully.


    Comment by edvatza — October 13, 2009 @ 4:42 am

    • Of all the shots I got that day, I think the light was the best on that one and it shows exactly what the scene looked like.


      Comment by montucky — October 13, 2009 @ 8:27 am

  8. The frosty meadow shot is my favorite, too. Crisp morning air is a gift I thoroughly enjoy. Thanks, Terry, for taking us along!


    Comment by Scott Thomas Photography — October 13, 2009 @ 6:25 am

    • That crisp air was a gift from somewhere in the Arctic as it moved in over our area. That was the last day of clear skies that we will enjoy for another week or so.


      Comment by montucky — October 13, 2009 @ 8:29 am

  9. Again, one word: Magnificent!


    Comment by Iona — October 13, 2009 @ 4:51 pm

  10. Glorious!


    Comment by Candace — October 13, 2009 @ 7:41 pm

  11. The deep blue sky and frosty vegetation make for a beautiful image Terry, love the color contrasts in this, great shots !!


    Comment by Bernie Kasper — October 15, 2009 @ 9:44 pm

    • Love those frosty mornings when on a strenuous hike! They feel just as good as they look too!


      Comment by montucky — October 15, 2009 @ 9:57 pm

  12. There is talk of decommissioning/moving the look out to potentially Drive Way Peak. There may or may not be interest from the public to restore the LO. Issue is with little traffic, it may not be worth the time and money to restore.
    I guess we’ll see. It saddens me to think of moving it.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by cubeironcataractcoalition — January 22, 2019 @ 10:59 am

    • I also think it would be sad to move it; no matter how well they do it we would lose a lot of history. On the other hand, that might be better than losing the cabin entirely. I know what a hike it is to get up there.


      Comment by montucky — January 24, 2019 @ 12:08 pm

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