Sky Pilot from the Bear Creek Overlook. Photo courtesy Doug Lorain with permission from Mountaineers Books

Round Up: Will Hike for View

I don’t have any direct evidence to support this belief, but I’d be willing to bet that people have admired a fine view at least since some distant Australopithecine relative first climbed to the rim of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. There’s just something about lofty spots with expansive scenes spread out in all directions that moves the human spirit. Those of us fortunate enough to live in Big Sky Country understand this better than most, as Montana is chock full of great viewpoints, most of which are reachable only by trail. Everyone has their favorites, but here is one well-researched look at, in my opinion, the 10 best Montana viewpoint hikes.

1. Northwest Peak

Distance: 4.6 miles roundtrip | Elevation Gain: 1,650 ft. | Location: Near Yaak, Northwest Montana

Views from this abandoned lookout building encompass large parts of Montana, Idaho, and Canada. Try late September for colorful alpine larches along the trail.

2. Stahl Peak Lookout

Distance: 9-mile loop | Elevation Gain: 3,000 ft. | Location: Near Eureka, Whitefish Range

A quaint lookout building perched atop towering cliffs that drop off over 1,000 feet on two sides.

Doug Lorain is the author of “100 Classic Hikes: Montana” (Mountaineers Books), released spring 2018, $21.95.

3. Bear Creek Overlook

Distance: 5 miles roundtrip | Elevation Gain: 1,180 ft. | Location: West of Victor, Bitterroot Mountains

One of Montana’s finest lunch spots, this cliff-top grandstand offers unparalleled views of the cliffs, canyons, and high peaks of the Bitterroots.

4. Eighteenmile Peak

Distance: 8-mile loop | Elevation Gain: 3,300 ft. | Location: West of Dell, Southwest Montana

Poor roads and no official trail ensure solitude, along with unequalled vistas up and down the narrow spine of the Continental Divide, and an unnamed lake on the approach hike.

5. Table Mountain

Distance: 9.5 miles roundtrip | Elevation Gain: 2,100 ft. | Location: Near Butte, Highland Mountains

Those afraid of heights should rethink this one. This unofficial (but easy to follow) scrambler’s route stays entirely above timberline en route to the highest point in this compact mountain range.

6. Highline Trail

Distance: 8.8 miles roundtrip | Elevation Gain: 1,650 ft. | Location: Off Logan Pass, Glacier National Park

Don’t expect solitude, but do expect plenty of wildlife, and some of the finest views in North America.

7. Mount Brown

Distance: 7 miles roundtrip | Elevation Gain: 2,750 ft. | Location: Northeast of Shelby, Sweetgrass Hills

Great views stretching across endless prairies and pothole country to the Rocky Mountains. Early June rewards you with some of Montana’s best wildflower displays.

8. Line Creek Plateau

Distance: 6-plus miles roundtrip | Elevation Gain: 1,100 ft. | Location: Beartooth Highway, southwest of Red Lodge

A little-known, high-alpine plateau with wildflowers, birds, and endless views in all directions.

9. Big Pryor Mountain

Distance: 3.4 miles roundtrip | Elevation Gain: 1,700 ft. | Location: Southeast of Bridger, Pryor Mountains

Unique flora, an ice cave, and a view-packed alpine summit all await on this short but diverse hike.

10. Lower Layout Creek

Distance: 3.4 miles roundtrip | Elevation Gain: 350 ft. | Location: Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, southeast of Billings

Stunning views of Montana’s best and most colorful canyons from the end of an unmarked trail.


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