OverviewPanoramic Peak is a long, narrow, east-west ridge that has three distinct high points, with the center bump being the actual summit.
Panoramic Peak sits on the divide between two wilderness areas, the Mission Mountain Tribal Wilderness, and the Mission Mountain Wilderness. This border is for the most part the hydrological divide between the Flathead River basin, and the Swan,and Blackfoot River basins. As such, Panoramic Peak divides Post Creek, and its feeder lakes of; Lake of the Clouds, Cliff, Disappointment, First , and McDonald lakes, from Kraft Creek with its feeder lakes of; Turquoise, Jewell, Lagoon, Lace, Glacier, Island, Heart, and Crescent Lakes. As I am sure you can tell, this is a fantastically beautiful area of pristine wilderness.
Panoramic Peak is on the east vanguard of the the most rugged and highest peaks of the Mission Mountain Range. Its steep and cliffed slopes are evidence of the power of glaciers that scoured this region of the range, leaving as they receded tarns, aretes`, and magnificently deep and jewel blue lakes, which mark the final resting spots in the ancient glaciers relentless flow toward the sea. Although there are no glaciers on Panoramic Peaks flanks, there are 2 large named glaciers that can be seen from its summit, the Sunrise and Mountaineer glaciers, and several smaller unnamed glaciers that dot the surrounding peaks.
Panoramic Peak is not often climbed, and as of this writing does not have a summit register, this is likely because the higher surrounding peaks like McDonald, and Mountaineer tend to garner the attention of peak baggers.
It is however a worthy peak in its own right, and it offers an interesting approach with moderate scrambling, and unbelievably beautiful summit vistas of most of the major peaks in the Mission Range. From Calowachan in the north to McDonald, to Glacier and Mountaineer, down to Daughter of the Sun, The Sunset crags, and Gray Wolf Peak in the south.
ApproachesApproaches from the west are via McDonald Lake [3400` elev]accessed from Hwy 93, 6 miles north of St.Ignatius, MT.
Approach from the east is from the Kraft Creek road, on Hwy 83, 37 miles north of Hwy 200. Then 11 [signed] miles to the Glacier Lake Trailhed [4835` elev.]
Red TapeIt is good to remember that although the two wilderness areas that encompass the summit of Panoramic Peak share a contiguous border, they are administered by two agencies, and as such have different regulations. The CS&K Tribal regulations will apply to all western approaches, and they are considerably stricter, and include, but are not limited to, a Tribal recreation permit, 3 day limit on campsite use, no firearms or archery equipment in one`s possession, and no camping within 100 feet of a water source or trail. There is also the Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone closure from July 15- Oct 1 that will bar west side access during these closures.
Of course both administration regulations ban the uses of mechanized tools including mountain bikes and hang gliders, amongst other common wilderness regulations.
Flora and FaunaAs the upper reaches of this range have only recently been released from constant snow and glacier cover, the land has had little time to form soil, and as such there are sparse tundra ecosystems, with a few stunted white pines, and high elevation larch grow to within a few hundred vertical feet of the summit. Mountain goats, deer, elk, moose, and of course grizzlies are common in this part of the range,there are also mountain lions, gray wolves, along with many types of weasels [including wolverines] and rodents. Bald eagles are often seen fishing the many lakes, however with few low passes in the range, migratory flyways tend to run along the length of the Mission Range, and concentrate birds in the valleys west and east.
GeologySince there is no mention of the geology on the main range page, I will include just a brief description here.
Interestingly, there is a distinction in rock types from the west slope to the east slope of this range. A similar east/west differentiation occurs in the Swan Range immediately to the east, and the Flathead Range to the north-east.. The west slopes of these ranges consist of Ravalli formation, a combination of siliceous and sandy quartzite, argillite and shale, and Pritchard formation, which are banded slate and inter-bedded sandstone. The east slopes are Wallace formation which include argillite, limestone, sandstone, shale and quartzite, and Siyeh, and Helena Limestones.
Interestingly, these formations can also be found in Glacier National Park to the North East, which additionally has Missoula and Piegan formations which include red, maroon, and purple argillites, impure quartzite and limestone.
Here is a great map of the geologic structure on the entire state!
External LinksFlathead National Forest>
Mission Mountain Tribal Wilderness
Current Weather Forecast>