OverviewLocated just south of the Canadian border in NW Montana's Whitefish Range lies the Ten Lakes Scenic Area. This remote hiking/backpacking area offers 89 miles of trails within it's 15,700 acres. There are many alpine lakes, several named peaks, and several other un-named points that provide the hiker/climber with many destinations from which to choose. One of these, St. Clair Peak, sits prominently above the Therriault Lakes and is one of the first and most striking geological features that one will see as they drive up to either of the Therriault Lakes' campgrounds.
We had anticipated some possible scrambling on the route up this peak, but instead, the route up the ridge turned into nothing more than an easy Class 2 bushwhack. The stupendous views in every direction, however, more than made up for the lack of scrambling.
Getting ThereDrive 43 miles north of Whitefish on Hwy 93 and turn right on Grave Creek Rd. Grave Creek Road is paved and two lanes for the first 3 miles and then is paved and one lane with pullouts for the next 7 miles. Follow the signs to Therriault Lakes. Total distance from Hwy 93 is 28.6 miles. After the first 10 miles it is a mixture of gravel with a couple of paved sections. It is a fairly decent road for the most part and 2WD passenger cars are able to travel on it. At approximately 27.8 miles take the right to Little Therriault Lake and drive for another approximately .8 miles and turn left into the parking area. There are only about 4 spaces for day use at the Little Therriault Lake Campground and the KNF has had two of them filled with piles of gravel for 2 years...my point-get there early.
The trail eventually curves to the left around the north ridge of St. Clair and then heads west. The trail steepens here for a short period and after ascending the greatest part of this steepness, begin looking for a clear way to the left to begin your bushwhack up the ridge of St. Clair.
We expected a much more open ridge, but the trees and vegetation actually crowded all the way over to the ridge for much of the bushwhack, making it difficult to hike along the edge and virtually eliminating any views for most of the way. This portion of the hike was just over three quarters of a mile.
As you near the summit the trees do thin some along the edge of the ridge allowing for better views of the rest of the route up.
|Terrain||One-Way Mileage||Elevation Gain|
|Trail #85||.62||80'||Trail #341||1.04||800'||Trail #339||1.22||200'||Bushwhack||.79||667'||Total||3.67||1747'|
LOOKING BACK DOWN THE ROUTE
Camping and RedTapeSt. Clair Peak 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 St. Clair Peak, 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 Little Therriault Lake.