Each Friday, in partnership with Montana Wilderness Association we will feature a new western Montana trail and then give you some helpful details and tips to get on your way!
This weekend Craig keeps us relatively close to home with an easy hike through pleasant forest to a lookout with a stunning view.
Johnson Peak Trail to McCart Lookout, Trail #435
Round Trip: 2.7 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 500 feet
Directions: From Missoula, head south on Highway 93 through Darby and then turn left onto East Fork Road near Sula. After about 15 miles, turn south (right) onto Forest Service Road #5765, and then travel another five miles to the trailhead on a narrow – but traversable – dirt road.
What to expect: The trail begins immediately to the left of the trailhead sign on a wide tread easily recognizable as an old roadbed. Ignore the narrow footpath further to the left; it is not the Johnson Peak Trail and is covered with downed trees after 100 feet or so.
You’ll start through dense but not oppressive stands of lodgepole pines , climbing gradually with the help of a few switchbacks to McCart Lookout. The pines provides a good amount of shade and make for rather pleasant hiking. The sunlight filtering through the pine needles can make for some enchanting light, and seasonal wildflowers add bursts of color to the lovely green shades of the forest floor.
After about a mile of hiking you reach a sign marking the boundary of the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness. Shortly after that you will reach the junction with the short spur trail (300 feet) to McCart Lookout, which lies just outside the wilderness boundary. This junction is distinct and, as of July 2016, is marked with a sign.
McCart Lookout provides panoramic views of the Bitterroot Mountains and parts of the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness. It is an absolutely outstanding place to spend the night – restored to reflect a lookout of the 1940s, including the stove, furniture, dishes and other small touches. And, for those who are wondering, the outhouse is in good shape. Sunrises and sunsets are particularly memorable. Reservations must be made through recreation.gov, and a reasonable fee is charged to maintain this historic structure for recreational use.
NOTE: If you want more, continue on the Johnson Peak Trail to the Continental Divide and drop down to Surprise, Violet, and Phlox Lakes – approximately eight miles from the trailhead.
Learn more about this trail, file your own trip report and photos, or check out some other great hikes at hikewildmontana.org. And don’t forget to tune in to the Trail 103.3 each Friday at 9:50 am for the next featured trail and your chance to win!
Big thanks to Rangitsch Bros RV for sponsoring the Trail Well Traveled. Proudly serving Missoula for over 56 years, whatever camper best suits your needs Rangitsch Bros has got it!