OverviewMount Marston is a densely forested mountain sitting on the northern end of Patrick Ridge which is located on the western side of NW Montana's rugged and wild Whitefish Range. As you travel on Hwy 93 between Whitefish and Eureka, and if you know what you're looking for, you will be able to easily determine which peak Mount Marston is, as the Whitefish Range seems to erupt from the valley floor to the east. The mountain is visible from Hwy 93 but the summit is not, it is blocked by a high ridge.
Obviously, Mount Marston sports a lookout at it's summit. Originally built in 1932 with an L-4 cab, the present lookout, topped with an R-6 flat cab on it's 10' concrete base, was built in 1962. This lookout is staffed in the summer by the Flathead National Forest. Ironically, the day that we summitted the mountain, a wildfire broke out to the SE in the Stillwater State Forest.
We were invited inside by one of the most personable firewatchers I've ever met. Ever vigilant, he had already called in the fire and fire crews were on it the same day. I'm pretty sure the fire eventually was determined to be of human origin.
The lookout owns sweeping views from Glacier National Park to the east, the Whitefish Range to the north, east, and south, to the Salish Mountains and the Cabinet Mountains to the west.
This is a long hike, but if you're into lookouts, as I am, it is well worth the exhausting effort to get there. There are other approaches to the summit, one would include FS Road #900, which will allow you to drive to the top, if you don't possess the physical ability to hike it.
Route InformationThe Marston-Dickey Trail #361 actually begins at the North Dickey Lake Campground on the west side of Hwy 93. By following the directions above, you will cut some unnecessary hiking off of the trip, and believe me, you will be glad you did...as this hike is LONG!
The trail steadily gains elevation through an old-growth forest and then begins contouring around several west-facing points until finally gaining the ridge on a long switchback. When the trail forks, take the left fork, and go over the ridge where the trail meets what looks like an old logging road. Make a right here, and it is at this point where you get your first view of the summit and the lookout, still over a mile of hiking away...pretty discouraging to say the least.
Continue up and around the "old road" until it connects with FS Road #900 (which can be used to drive all the way to the summit)...hang a left and continue up the dusty and rocky road all the way to the summit and the lookout.
THIS IS A STRENUOUS HIKE!
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Camping and RedTapeMount Marston 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. Although we saw no bear sign specifically on Mount Marston, the Whitefish Range is chock full of healthy-sized black bears and grizzlies.
There is water available on this hike. A map of the Kootenai 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 closest campground is at North Dickey Lake.
Inside The Lookout
THE BIRTH OF A WILDFIREThere is a gap in the ridge where FS Road #900 comes up the mountain. As we crossed onto the road we looked to the SE through this gap and couldn't believe what we saw. This came to be known as the Fitzsimmons Fire. Fortunately, this fire never grew larger than 60 acres as fire crews were on it the same day.