OverviewKenelty Mountain anchors the NE corner of US Hwy 2's long turn to the NW in it's journey from Kalispell, Montana to Libby, Montana. Kenelty is a huge roundish blob of a mountain, in fact, viewed from Jumbo Peak, it looks like a bowl turned upside-down. Kenelty probably doesn't look too exciting to most of you, and to be honest, the summit views were rather disappointing, but that was only because it would've been too dangerous to clamber up the rotting stairs of a very cool, but rapidly aging, L-4 fire lookout.
Kenelty is located on the southeastern edge of NW Montana's spectacular Cabinet Mountains. The beginnings of the higher peaks of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness are located to the west of Kenelty and some can be viewed from the trailhead.
On your travels to Kenelty you will pass several other minor peaks of the Cabinets located south of Hwy 2, in order, from Kalispell: Bowers Peak, Wapiti Mountain, and Fosseum Mountain.
Started as a camp in 1914, the mountain was home to a 1929 cupola cabin, until it was replaced with the present 10' pole tower with L-4 cab in 1934. The tower is abandoned. All of the windows have been removed, leaving minimal support for the roof.
Drive 61.4 miles west of Kalispell on US Hwy 2. Turn right on the first un-marked road after Hwy 2 makes its large turn to the NW. Drive .2 miles and make another right, drive for .12 miles and make a curving left up a switchback, then drive for 1.46 miles to the closed gate and park. These un-marked roads don't even have numbers on MY Topo so it is important to study the appropriate maps to determine where you are going. The parking area is quite large and there is room for many vehicles.
Hike up the FS Road past the closed gate for just under a half-mile gaining a little over 100'. This road cuts across Trail #6, or the Hunter Creek Trail, or on My Topo, it is called the Divide Trail. With this route you're accessing the trail on Kenelty's western flank. It continues over the summit to the NE and all the way down the other side of the mountain. On the other side (or west side) of Hwy 2 it continues up and over Barren Peak. The views of the peaks of the southern Cabinet Mountains Wilderness begin right from the parking area.
Switchbacks (2) are kept to a minimum on this trail as it takes off straight up the mountain, through old-growth forest, until hitting the long SW to NE summit ridge. Views from the open ridge of the Cabinets are spectacular! The ridge traverse was rife with wildflowers.
Trail #6 intersects Trail #104 coming up from "somewhere" on Kenelty's south face and then veers more to the north on it's way to the summit. Along the way, you pass the serene scene pictured below.
The summit itself consisted of a small, rocky, wildflower-filled meadow. Since the lookout has been abandoned for years the surrounding trees had grown too tall and blocked the majority of the summit views. The lookout itself is unsafe to enter. The view to the SE, pictured below, is the only one from the summit.
|Terrain||One-Way Mileage||Elevation Gain|
|FS Road||.41||133'||Trail #6||4.2||2280'||Total||4.61||2413'|
Camping and RedTapeKenelty Mountain 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 didn't see any bear sign on Kenelty Mountain, but the Cabinet Mountains are chock full of healthy-sized black bears and the occasional grizzly.
There is water available on this hike from the pond below the summit. We carried our own water. I would be extremely careful if obtaining water from sources such as this pond. A map of the Kootenai National Forest and the Libby Ranger District, are 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 campground is Lake Creek Campground located a few miles farther west off of Hwy 2.