Montana Outdoors

June 28, 2015

June 2015 visit to Big Hole Lookout

Every summer I visit the old fire lookout near Big Hole Peak in the Cabinet Mountains of western Montana. The trail to it is good (USFS trail 368) and it’s a pleasant hike of only about 2.7 miles to the lookout. The elevation of Highway 200 is about 2400 feet; the elevation of the trail head is 5500 feet and the elevation at the lookout is 6922 feet. The old cabin is undergoing a restoration so it may be used as a rental for summer visitors who will enjoy some nice long distance views during their stay there. Deer, elk, possibly a moose, cougar, and black bears may be encountered on the road to the trail head or on the trail itself.

To reach the trail head, turn onto the Weeksville Creek road (USFS road 887) from Montana Highway 200, about six miles west of the town of Plains Montana. Then at about 3 miles turn left on USFS road 5587 and take it ten miles at which point it forks and both forks are closed by gates for the protection of wildlife. The trail head for 368 is right there. There is adequate parking for horse trailers before the gates. It is a single track road that is quite narrow in places but there are plenty of wider places where you can pass another vehicle. It is rocky (not muddy) and not a lot of fun to drive on when it’s icy or snow-covered.

Following are some photos of the trail, wildflowers along the trail, scenery and the lookout taken on June 11, 2015.

Penstemons

Bear Grass

Bear Grass

Big Hole Lookout trail

Bear Grass

Vetch

Larkspur

Big Hole Lookout trail

Big Hole Lookout trail

Big Hole Lookout trail

Untitled

Big Hole Lookout

Big Hole Lookout trail

Big Hole Lookout

East from Big Hole Lookout

Big Hole Lookout

Big Hole Lookout

Big Hole Lookout

Marmot Peak

Untitled

Big Hole Peak

Bear Grass

Vetch

Big Hole Lookout trail

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40 Comments »

  1. Looks like such a lovely hike! Beautiful with all the flowersπŸ˜„

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    Comment by Girl Gone Expat — June 28, 2015 @ 8:13 pm

    • Yes, it’s pretty there and although it is a short hike, it’s a pleasant way to spend some time. I actually like it best in inclement weather.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — June 28, 2015 @ 8:31 pm

      • Interesting, why best in inclement weather? πŸ˜„

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        Comment by Girl Gone Expat — June 28, 2015 @ 8:48 pm

        • The trail follows a ridge most of the way but there is intermittent shelter. To the south and west you can see the weather coming in from a long distance and I enjoy that. It’s not a good place when lots of lightning is present though.

          Liked by 1 person

          Comment by montucky — June 28, 2015 @ 8:56 pm

  2. When I saw the first photo of the cabin, I thought, why doesn’t it blow away? Then I saw the cables in the subsequent photos. Good idea!

    Like

    Comment by wordsfromanneli — June 28, 2015 @ 8:13 pm

    • Yes, and the logs that form the lower part of the cabin are very heavy and anchored solidly too. I can imagine what some of the winter winds are like up there!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — June 28, 2015 @ 8:33 pm

  3. Beautiful area. The bear grass is fascinating. It would appear that it gets a bit windy up on Big Hole Lookout!

    Like

    Comment by centralohionature — June 29, 2015 @ 3:02 am

    • The winds that hit those peaks when storms blow in, especially in winter, are fierce to say the least!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — June 29, 2015 @ 8:24 pm

  4. What an exciting forest, and so lovely weather for a hike with you. Excellent photos too.

    Like

    Comment by bentehaarstad — June 29, 2015 @ 4:36 am

    • Thanks Bente! That’s a very pleasant place to be on a summer’s day.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — June 29, 2015 @ 8:25 pm

  5. Very beautiful scenery, Terry! Gorgeous blue skies, wonderful forests, pretty flowers and mountain views. My favourite flower pic is actually the tiny delicate white one with the purple anthers although the larger, brighter ones do look impressive. What is the name of the plant with a large cluster of white flowers (3rd from bottom)? You’ve probably labelled it before but I have a poor memory for botanical names.

    Like

    Comment by Jane — June 29, 2015 @ 5:42 am

    • That white flower is Bear-Grass (Xerophyllum tenax). It is the only evergreen member of the lily family in our region. The flower stalks are produced from off-shoot plants growing from the base of the large clump of grass and can grow up to 4.5 feet tall and die after flowering. The plants seem to flower every 5 – 10 years, and it seems to me that there is about a 7 year cycle when they are really abundant.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — June 29, 2015 @ 8:32 pm

  6. What great views. I wouldn’t mind spending a summer in that cabin, but I wonder why it’s not being used as a fire lookout any longer. Did they build a new one somewhere?

    Like

    Comment by New Hampshire Garden Solutions — June 29, 2015 @ 5:43 am

    • One of my good friends did spend a summer in that cabin, the summer of 1964. Not long after that, nearly all of the fire lookout towers were decommissioned, replaced by aircraft patrols and most of them destroyed by the Forest Service. I would like to see the numbers that they used as a cost justification for that change, and a comparison of the efficiencies in detecting new fire starts.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — June 29, 2015 @ 8:36 pm

  7. Such a beautiful place to walk to – it must feel exhilarating and so deeply peaceful up there. Love those flowers, too.

    Like

    Comment by Jo Woolf — June 29, 2015 @ 10:15 am

    • That area gets more activity than some of the other peaks in this area, but even so it is quite peaceful most of the time. The lookout cabin was built not on Big Hole Peak itself, but a second peak close to the taller one but with a better view of the forest to the east. The peak itself doesn’t get many visitors and is a beautiful place to spend some quiet time.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — June 29, 2015 @ 8:39 pm

  8. What a wonderful hike and that cabin on top of the mountain must have one of the best views over the landscape around.
    Can you imagine waking up and stepping outside your front door to that view every morning.
    The white flower reminds me a bit of the pink BLAZING STAR, GAYFEATHER (Liatris spicata), which I photographed in the Botanical Gardens here in Melbourne.

    Like

    Comment by Vicki — June 29, 2015 @ 7:13 pm

    • I guess the views are one of the reasons why I love to visit the old lookout sites. Those sites were chosen exactly for that reason so from them new wildfires could be detected and reported. Manning those lookouts must have been a wonderful experience for those who did it, many of whom spent many summers on the same lookouts.

      I see a little similarity between Gayfeather and Bear-grass, although Gayfeather is in the Aster family, and Bear-grass is in the Lily family.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — June 29, 2015 @ 8:49 pm

  9. Hi Montucky, Really spectacular scenery. I love the forests! I miss the Western mountains a lot. Here it is mostly various plantation Pines and lots of Live Oaks. Of course, Fl has no mountains and very very few hills. I love the virtual hikes on your wonderful posts. Have a great Tuesday tomorrow!

    Like

    Comment by wildlifewatcher — June 29, 2015 @ 10:47 pm

    • I would miss these mountains too. I couldn’t stand to leave them now.
      I’m glad that you enjoy the “hikes”! Have a great day yourself!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — June 30, 2015 @ 9:22 am

  10. absolutely beautiful!
    summer is in full swing!

    Like

    Comment by Tammie — June 30, 2015 @ 2:17 pm

    • It is! Sure would like some rain though! At least we have had cool nights.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — June 30, 2015 @ 6:23 pm

  11. The bear grass is wonderful. And that view from the lookout is just as wonderful. One of the things I like most about posts like this is the way the contrasts in scale are presented: huge mountains, tiny flowers, and everything in between. In a wonderful way, you do have it all!

    Like

    Comment by shoreacres — June 30, 2015 @ 8:43 pm

    • I’m glad that you enjoy the variety and appreciate your commenting on it because that’s exactly what I hope to present. My purpose for hiking is not to get somewhere, but just to be where I have chosen to be and to enjoy every single bit of the experience. These places are wonderful to experience, especially after many years of visiting such places and feeling comfortable with the solitude and magnitude of the wild country.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — June 30, 2015 @ 9:25 pm

  12. Lovely

    Like

    Comment by RitaRoland40 — July 2, 2015 @ 9:57 pm

  13. Love the bear grass and it would be fun to stay in that lookout, just not alone…

    Like

    Comment by Candace — July 2, 2015 @ 10:47 pm

    • Those old lookouts are beautiful places to be. Sometimes, alone is best!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 3, 2015 @ 8:12 am

  14. So very wonderful…inviting. You remember that if I run-away from here, your place is the destination, right….and you can’t tell anybody, right…? πŸ™‚

    Like

    Comment by seekraz — July 3, 2015 @ 9:28 am

  15. Stunning photographs from a beautiful part of the world πŸ™‚

    Like

    Comment by neilirving — July 4, 2015 @ 4:50 am

  16. Hello Montana! I’ve always wanted to visit Montana. Now I can live vicariously through your lovely photos.

    Like

    Comment by Julie — July 6, 2015 @ 3:45 am

    • Thank you Julie. I hope you enjoy the photos and perhaps will be able to visit Montana some time. The weather has been unseasonably hot lately and so I haven’t been out as much as usual. Hopefully that will change and I can photograph some new places before winter comes.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — July 6, 2015 @ 8:13 pm

  17. Gorgeous set of wonderful photos. I love among them the first one and paths in the wood, not forgetting gorgeous sceneries.

    Like

    Comment by Sartenada — July 7, 2015 @ 12:42 am

    • Thank you! I especially like the trails that lead to the peaks with open views.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 7, 2015 @ 7:35 pm

  18. The most amazing place ever!

    Like

    Comment by inesephoto — July 8, 2015 @ 12:01 pm

  19. Be careful stepping out of the cabin- one might roll down the mountain!

    Like

    Comment by Watching Seasons — July 29, 2015 @ 9:36 am


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