OverviewBar Z...hmmm...when I hear that name it makes me think of a big cattle ranch in the Old West with lots of cowboys. Cowboys branding cows, gathered around the chuckwagon after a hard days work, sleeping around the campfire....and of course, lots of critters like the ones pictured below.
In this case, however, Bar Z refers to Bar Z Peak, a massive mountain located in the extreme southwestern portion of NW Montana's Salish Mountains. The summit of Bar Z Peak provides commanding views to the east, SE and NE. On a clear day, from the summit, the hiker has views of four mountain ranges. The Missions to the SE, the Swans to the east, the Whitefish Range to the NE, and of course, much of the Salish Mountains before you. On the way up the route the hiker also gets impressive views of a fifth range to the west, the Cabinets.
Oh yeah, and the guys pictured above actually do belong to a large cattle operation just to the west of Bar Z...the M-T...no, I'm not making that up.
Route InformationHike up FS Road #6770 behind the closed gate for 3.3 miles gaining 757' of elevation until you reach the saddle between Bar Z and an un-named point to the east. Some views from the road as you hike are pictured below.
When you arrive at the saddle you are faced with three choices. A road going left, a road going right, and a clear-cut bushwhack in between the two roads. We opted for the clear-cut, which, unfortunately did not remain clear all the way. In hind sight, the road going right may have been the better choice, but we may never know for sure. The clear-cut gradually closes in as you gain elevation and the bushwhack becomes somewhat more difficult.
Looking for the path of least resistance, .61 miles and 653' later, bushwhacking through more young pines and then old growth with deadfall on the ridge, we made the summit. Bar Z Peak is another Salish summit that formerly housed a lookout, this one perched on the very eastern edge of the summit, not much remains now.
|Terrain||One-Way Mileage||Elevation Gain|
|FS Road||3.3||757'||Lower Bushwhack||.69||444'||Logging Road||.28||-81'||Upper Bushwhack||.61||653'||Total||4.88||1773'|
Camping and RedTapeBar Z Peak is located in the Kootenai National Forest which is bear country. Don't hike alone, make noise as you hike, and carry bear spray and know how to use it. We saw lots of fresh bear sign on Bar Z and the Salish Mountains are chock full of healthy-sized black bears and the occasional grizzly.
There is no water available on this hike. A map of the Kootenai National Forest is also very helpful in negotiating the many FS Roads in the Salish Mountains. Bug repellent is an absolute necessity in Montana in June!
A final note...due to it's proximity to Hwy 2, Bar Z is a great mountain to get out and do some snowshoeing on in the winter or early spring in NW Montana (which is basically the same thing).