OverviewCastle Rock is a unique peak located in the extreme southern portion of NW Montana's Salish Mountains. Due to the extraordinary cliffs on Castle Rock this could easily be made into an enjoyable scramble of varying difficulty, instead of just a steep hike.
However, there is one large problem that we were unaware of until we arrived at the mountain to ascend it. This mountain is a working rock quarry! When we departed our vehicle we almost immediately heard the sounds of large machinery. We decided to go up anyway but it definitely altered the way that we had planned to climb it. We opted toward the south end of the mountain as they were working on the north side and we thought that if we were seen that someone might ask us to leave, even though there were no "No Trespassing" signs posted anywhere that we could see. I would suggest, if interested, to try this mountain on a Sunday, when theoretically, you would have it to yourself.
Getting ThereDrive 29.2 miles west of Kalispell on Hwy 2 to #879. This is signed as the North Fork Murr Creek on Hwy 2 and is located on the east side of McGregor Lake. Turn left here and drive up the mountain 4.18 miles to #5583 which is the third left. This road is not signed at the intersection! A map of the Lolo National Forest is very helpful in negotiating these roads. After turning onto #5583 drive 3.35 miles until finding a pullout on the east side of Castle Rock. The pull-out is located on the right side of the road. You will be able to see the mountain (pictured below) as you drive toward it after you round an un-named point.
After parking, walk past the closed gate and up the road for .22 miles, looking for a nice way up the slope. Bushwhack up the slope for .17 miles gaining 235'.
At this point you pop out onto another road. You can eliminate this bushwhack if you continue up #5583 for about another third of a mile to a road on the right. You can park there and proceed up that road and arrive at the same spot that you bushwhack to.
At the higher road we went left and up some switchbacks until the road dead-ends beneath the sheer cliffs. This was approximately .57 miles of road gaining 210'. The cliffs were guarded by some extremely steep piles of loose rock so we backtracked down the road to a spot left and below the southernmost outcrop of rock and began the bushwhack to the summit from there.
The upper bushwhack was much shorter and easier than the first consisting of a steep hillside with some small trees and grass and a pile of loose talus. After .09 miles and a gain of 151' you are at the summit, pictured below.
|Terrain||One-Way Mileage||Elevation Gain|
|FS Road||.22||minimal'||Bushwhack 1||.17||235'||Road 2||.57||210'||Bushwhack 2||.09||151'||Total||1.11||596'|
Camping and RedTapeCastle Rock is located in the Lolo 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. Although we did not see any bear sign specifically on Castle Rock, the Salish Mountains are chock full of healthy-sized black bears and the occasional grizzly.
A map of the Lolo 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 and July. Water is not available on this hike.
The closest official campground is at McGregor Lake.