OverviewHornet Mountain and Lookout is located in NW Montana's Whitefish Range. The Whitefish Range is located to the west of Glacier National Park, separated by the Northfork of the Flathead River. Obscured by it's more famous neighbor to the east, the Whitefish Range is more well-known to the local populace than the average tourist who comes to Montana to visit Glacier National Park. The mountains may not be as high, but there is a rugged isolation that can be found here if that is what you're after. While many trails in Glacier are stacked to the gills with rude and obnoxious tourists, hiking the Whitefish Range, on most days, you will be alone.
The Hornet Mountain Lookout is available to rent and would provide a unique base of operations to further explore the eastern side of the Whitefish Range. There are many peaks available to day-hike (several are pictured on this page) and a couple within hiking distance of the lookout itself.
Getting ThereThere are three different ways to get to Hornet Mountain, unfortunately, none of them are very good, so I will only go into detail on what I think is the best way to get there. From downtown Columbia Falls drive 16.2 miles to West Glacier, turn left and enter Glacier National Park. Drive 2.1 miles to the Camas Road. Turn left and drive up the Camas Road for 11.7 miles to the intersection with the Northfork Road (#486). This way is longer but by doing this you avoid the portion of the Northfork Road, that is by far, the worst excuse for a road that I have ever driven on. Turn right on the Northfork Road. After driving 12.8 miles you will pass the famous Polebridge entrance to Glacier National Park. Drive north of Polebridge for approximately another 10 miles...looking for the Whale Creek Road (#318) on the left. You will actually pass over Whale Creek before you come to the Whale Creek Rd. Turn left on Whale Creek Road and drive for 3.41 miles til coming to FS Road #9805 on the right. Turn right and drive for 5.4 miles until coming to the trailhead. Warning...FS Road #9805 is steep, narrow and winding...some may feel uncomfortable on this road.
A single vehicle entry pass for Glacier National Park for one week for the year 2011 is still $25 and a one year pass is $35. Whether you're visiting the area or a local, you'll more than likely already have one or the other.
Route InformationAt almost 6000', this is a fairly high trailhead for this area and the views begin as soon as you step from your vehicle. Cleft Rock Mountain 7300'...pictured below...is in your face from the very beginning.
The trail begins by switchbacking steeply up the side of Hornet through a burn from the Wedge Fire of 2003...the picture below is a zoom shot of the switchbacks from Wedge Mountain.
The trail is only about a mile long but in gaining almost 800' is fairly steep...the mile passes quickly and before you know it you're on the summit.
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Camping and RedTapeHornet Mountain is located in 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. Although we saw no bear sign specifically on Hornet Mountain, the Whitefish Range is chock full of healthy-sized black bears and grizzlies.
There is no 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.
The Hornet Mountain Lookout is available to rent for the night. When we day-hiked Hornet the lookout was occupied but the occupants were kind enough to give us a peek inside...pictured below.
Trip OptionsIf in the area to day hike Hornet Mountain or to stay overnight in the lookout an obvious side-trip is right across the parking area from the Hornet Mountain Trail #349. An easy and short bushwhack up the ridge of Wedge Mountain proved irresistable and rewarded us with some fantastic views. Highly recommended!
Parting ShotThe loo and the loo view...pictured below...on Hornet Mountain.