When standing in Missoula looking south towards the Bitterroot, most people mistake the peak they’re looking at as Lolo Peak. It is actually a little known fact that you are indeed looking at North Summit, which hides Lolo Peak directly behind it. Either way, I’ve been standing in Missoula for nearly 6 years now staring at the Bitterroot Mountains knowing that one of the most hiked peak/trail in the area has been eluded me. No more.
This morning my friend Jim and I arose w/ the sun and took off down Mormon Creek Road towards the trailhead.
The first 4 miles of the trail is an uphill gain on a beautifully maintained route through an equally beautiful Lodgepole Pine forest.
Once at the top of Carlton Ridge you reach an overlook called Vista Point and this is where you get your first true look at Lolo Peak (which is actually a fairly long north to south section of a ridge that includes two high points separated by a saddle). It is also at this point that we began the descent towards Carlton Lake.
After spending a few minutes resting along the shores of Carlton Lake, the wind died down and the mosquitoes picked up so we decided it was high time we being our scramble up to the ridge-line that is Lolo Peak.
The scramble is only slightly technical (as to not throw a bunch of loose rocks down on those coming up behind you) and although it’s straight up the side of the last ridge-line, is a short shot straight up to the summit. Trying to avoid the oncoming afternoon heat (it’s been around 100 every day for the last week, hot for those of us used to the long, cold Montana winters) we stayed only long enough to make a quick snowman to celebrate the 4th of July & began our return route.
|Missoula from Lolo Peak
All in all it took us 7 hours to rock out 14.3 miles, including a lunch break on our way back through Vista Point to enjoy some fruit and chicken teriyaki, compliments of my Jet Boil.
Thanks for the great hike Jim! I’ll never grow tired of finding people who are not only open to, but love adventures!
Happy 4th of July!