OverviewSheppard Mountain 6216' is located just south of the Brush Creek Divide in NW Montana's Salish Mountains. To the west of the Brush Creek Divide lies the Kootenai National Forest...to the east is the Flathead National Forest.
Some of the surrounding peaks include: Elk Mountain, Mount Swaney, Mount Conner, Dunsire Point, Ingalls Mountain, Wolf Point, and Weigel Mountain.
Sheppard proved to be somewhat more difficult than we had anticipated and was probably one of the most colorful hikes we have taken in the Salish. The route was strewn with wildflowers, particularly along the road and on the ridge close to the summit (see Parting Shots)...and, as usually is the case with these mountains, no other people on the mountain. However, a word of warning, beware maniacal BNSF Railroad employees driving on FS Road #113 over the Brush Creek Divide as a shortcut as we almost had a head on collision with one on a blind curve at about 4500'...he was driving at a high rate of speed for conditions...it would not have been pretty.
Route InformationOur original plan was to drive up to the Brush Creek Divide and pick up Trail #252 at it's TH on the south side of the road. The KNF map still shows this trail from #113 to the south, the FNF map does not. If it is there we could not find it...the TH for #252 going north to Elk Mountain was there...on the right side of the road. So, Plan B, on the fly drive back down to FS Road #2961 and take it as far as possible and then bushwhack to the summit from the end of the road. FS Road #2961 was not your average FS Road, however, as it had multiple large ditches cut into the road, possibly an abandoned culvert project? The picture below, which was the largest ditch, in no way shows the depth or the steepness of the sides of the cut.
After almost 3.5 miles of this and gaining almost 550' the road abruptly ends in a stand of trees. However, if you walk directly into the trees, there is a remnant of the road for a short while. At that point, you begin looking for an easier way to the higher ground to your right. The bushwhack goes through some young pines lower down on the way up to the ridge but it never gets very thick before things begin to open up.
There are several small obstacles on your way up to the ridge, but nothing that was too difficult to overcome. Once you do get higher up enroute to the ridge there is some deadfall due to the Brush Creek Fire of 2007.
After bushwhacking for almost 3/4's of a mile and gaining about 400' we finally made the broad ridge-top and had our first view toward the west...pictured below.
After taking a break and admiring the view begin the hike to the summit. After losing 20' almost immediately to the lowest point on the ridge, you climb up and over a small wall of rock and hit a flat area. Ironically, from this point, we spied a trail leading up and toward the summit...Trail #252! It was in good shape so we followed it all the way up until it started curving around the actual summit. This is where we left the trail, to the left, and the summit was so close that the distance to it is not worth mentioning.
|Terrain||One-Way Mileage||Elevation Gain|
|FS Road #2961||3.46||548'||Bushwhack To Ridge||.73||400'||Trail #252 To Summit||.40||313'||Total||4.59||1261'|
Camping and RedTapeSheppard Mountain straddles the boundary line between the Kootenai National Forest and 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. The Salish Mountains are chock full of healthy-sized black bears and the occasional grizzly.
A map of the Kootenai National Forest and/or Flathead National Forest is also very helpful in negotiating the many FS Roads in the Salish Mountains. Bug repellent is an absolute necessity in Montana in June and July. This is a dry route so carry your own water.
The closest official campground is at Sylvia Lake.