OverviewDriving south on Hwy 83 from Bigfork, Montana, one has long been able to gawk at the steep, undulating, west face of the Swan Range as it seems to erupt from the valley floor like a wall of rock and trees. If you're not careful, as you gawk to the east (left), you'll miss the Mission Range as it begins to transform the views to the west (right) from walls of pines lining the highway to its' own impressive curtains of rock. Which of these ranges is the most rugged?...the most beautiful? Those are questions which could be debated until the end of time. However, the goal today has already been decided, it is Cedar Peak, the northernmost named peak in the Mission Mountains Wilderness.
Normally, views from Cedar Peak would be spectacular in all directions, and they were, except to the east, where the Condon Mountain Wildfire was burning, obscuring views of the Swans.
After the lakes some steeper switchbacks take you up to the ridge above Cedar Lake. This is where you take a climbers' trail off to the left (east). Unfortunately, this trail is consumed rather quickly by the forest. Bits and pieces of it can be found going up the SW ridge of Cedar, but for all intents and purposes, this route degenerates into a bushwhack.
Walk east on the ridge above Cedar Lake for about 1/4 mile to gain the beginning of the SW ridge. The forest is relatively open, but there is lots of deadfall and tall, thick, grass which hides many holes. Very uneven terrain to deal with.
Head up the ridge for almost a 1/2 mile gaining almost 700', staying to the left, as much as the vegetation will allow, for a clearer and "easier" journey up the ridge to the summit.
JFKitty ascending the false summit.
THE ACTUAL SUMMIT
|Terrain||One-Way Mileage||Elevation Gain|
|Trail #738||3.86||1365'||Bushwhack to ridge||.24||20'||SW Ridge to Summit||.46||687'||Total||4.56||2072'|
We knew the views of the Swans to the east would be killed by the
Condon Mountain Wildfire, but managed to get the picture below, of
Swan Peak, on the way out, from the road.
Camping and RedTapeCedar Peak is located in the Mission Mountains Wilderness within the Flathead 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 did not see any bear sign on Cedar Peak, but the Mission Range is chock full of healthy-sized black bears and the occasional grizzly.
There is water available on this hike. A map of the Flathead National Forest is helpful in negotiating the many Forest Service Roads. Bug repellent is an absolute necessity in Montana in June, July and August. No ticks were seen on this hike.
The closest official campground is at Point Pleasant.