The Little Napa Lookout is located in the Swan River State Forest which is comprised of 40,000 acres in the Swan Valley, within NW Montana's Flathead National Forest. This is an easy forest service road hike to a lookout point with outstanding views up and down the Swan Range and across the Swan Valley to the northern portion of the Mission Range.
Turn left here from Hwy 83
Sign indicating the way
From downtown Whitefish drive south on Hwy 93 for 16 miles to downtown Kalispell. Continue through Kalispell on Hwy 93 south for an additional 8.43 miles to Hwy 82. Turn left or east and drive for 6.87 miles to Hwy 35. Turn right on Hwy 35 and drive south for .4 miles to Hwy 83. Turn left on Hwy 83 and drive south for 59.98 miles to what My Topo calls the Center Loop Road. This road is on the left and is un-marked except for the sign pictured to the left. Drive on this Forest Service Road, gradually gaining elevation, for 3.99 miles until reaching an un-marked intersection. Turn left and proceed upward for .33 miles until reaching the intersection where the signpost pictured on the right stands. This is the first tangible evidence that you are anywhere close to where you're supposed to be.
Limited parking area
Turn left at the sign and drive for 1.1 miles until reaching an intersecting road from the right. There is a signpost facing the opposite direction, so we had to get out of the truck to verify that this was the correct road. Turn right here and drive for .14 miles until reaching a gated road to the left, which serves as the "trailhead".
An easy forest service road hike for just under a mile, gaining about 540'. This is a great, short fall hike or would be a decent spring conditioner as the road is fairly steep, you would just need to repeat it several times, as a "spring conditioner". The first view of the lookout, as you approach on the road, is pictured below.
The lookout, closed up for the winter, would not allow entry. Currently, only used for emergencies, I believe, the lookout looked to be in fantastic shape. Although we could not get up on the deck, the surrounding views, especially of the fall color, were fantastic!
Camping and RedTape
Little Napa Lookout 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. We saw no bear sign on the Little Napa Lookout hike but the Swan 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.