This week’s Trail Talk Thursday will cover the same hike featured on Tuesday’s post: Scalplock Mountain and Lookout. This trail summary is based on late May conditions, so if you undertake this hike plan accordingly for your season!
Located across the highway from Essex, MT, Scalplock Mountain rises 6919 ft above sea level. The lookout, located at the top of the mountain, boasts quite an amazing view overlooking the southern range of Glacier National Park. In order to get to the top and enjoy these views, you’re going to have to climb roughly 3500ft and just over 4.5 miles of travel in one direction.
To start the journey, you’ll need to head for the Walton Ranger Station near Essex, MT. The parking is rather limited, but that shouldn’t deter you as the spots are adequate for the amount of foot traffic you’ll encounter. In order to reach the primary portion of the trailhead, you’ll need to take about a mile of travel along the South Boundary Trail. This will lead you through forested area following alongside the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, gradually up to a single person bridge. The bridge can be quite a rocker, but so long as you take your time there won’t be any issues. Once you cross this bridge continue following the trail the fork. There should be a sign, but if there isn’t, go ahead and hang a left to head up to Scalplock.
Once you begin the climb upward, expect to have little-to-no exposure until you make it to the last 1/2 mile or so of trail. As you’ll be established in wooded forest with adequate undergrowth, expect to there to be plenty of fauna as well (aka bring bear spray). Getting closer to the top, you may come across patches of snow on your path ~ this shouldn’t deter you from your hike as the path will remain relatively visible until you reach the top ridge-line.
Upon exiting the trees at one of your final switchbacks, you see the ridgeline leading up to the lookout and summit of the mountain. At this point you should be 1/2 mile or less from getting to the top. You’ll either have path available or you’ll want to follow the ridgeline on your way to the top (it will vary based upon time of year and seasonal snowpack).
If snowpack is the case, you may find it difficult to track the footpath. Therefore, once you reach the rocky outcropping, hug the slope and make your way west (follow the rocky cropping west). There will be plenty of shrubs and rocks to hold onto to prevent you from taking a fall during a small portion of scrambling. Getting to the top of the rocky section, you’ll be back on a shallow grade which will guide you directly up to the lookout.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the top of Scalplock Mountain. There’s a nice picnic bench for you to stop and have lunch, so be sure to take a few minutes reprieve and enjoy the view! If the lookout is staffed be sure to go say hello and thank them for their work. If it weren’t for lookouts or trail crews, the accessibility of these hikes would be non-existent, so it’s of the utmost importance we show them our undying gratitude!
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Have a great day – get out there and enjoy YOUR adventure!