Sutton Mountain, unique among Salish summits, in the fact that it offered up a brief scrambling opportunity. Scrambling opportunities in the Salish Mountains are a rare thing, our only other one on Wolf Point this year. If you see one you should take it!
Beginning of trail #800
Drive 35.6 miles north on Hwy 93 from downtown Whitefish. Turn left at the "Trego" sign just past Dickey Lake. Drive 2.9 miles through "downtown Trego" and then turn left on #36 (Fortine Creek Rd). Drive 3.28 miles to Edna Creek Road (#433) and turn right. This road is paved for the first 8 miles...after driving 16.5 miles there is an intersection with FS Road #1900...turn left here. After 1.3 miles on #1900 there is another intersection. Go straight here and the road changes to FS Road #494...stay on this road for 4.1 miles until you arrive at the saddle between Sutton Mountain and Little Sutton Mountain and park. The last 1.2 miles of this road up to the saddle is very rocky...proceed with caution...and you should have good tires.
Secondary trail to right
Trail #800 to Sutton and Lydia begins directly across the road from Trail #446 to Little Sutton and McGuire. The trail does not go over the summit so there is a bushwhack involved to some degree. As the trail gains elevation traversing the northwest flank of Sutton you should begin to look for a convenient way up. Obviously, the higher the trail goes on the side of the mountain the shorter the bushwhack will be. Unfortunately, the "convenient way" did not materialize at the high point of the trail, however, patience is a virtue.
Angle right here
Continue upward through the pines
As we began to descend the trail wondering if there was a "convenient way" at all...it suddenly appeared to our right...what I will call a "secondary trail". Follow the secondary trail for a very short time and it leads to an old, overgrown, logging road. Turn right and go up the logging road for a short way, eventually it kind of looks like a fork. Take the right fork and bushwhack up through the young growth pines. As you make your way upward, a talus field may catch your eye through the trees. Angle right and up toward the bottom of the talus field...pictured below...and let the brief but fun scrambling begin!
PHOTO BY THE LEVITATOR
PHOTO BY JFKITTY
The talus field was about 62 vertical feet and could easily be avoided to climbers' left if so desired. From the top of the talus field it was just a short distance further up the mountain through some trees to the summit, which sported a large cairn...pictured below.
Camping and RedTape
Sutton Mountain 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 Sutton Mountain, the Salish Mountains are chock-full of healthy-sized black bears and the occasional grizzly.
A map of the Kootenai National Forest is helpful. Bug repellent is an absolute necessity in Montana in June, July and August. There is no water available on this hike.
As mentioned earlier, Sutton is one of four named summits on a long boomerang-shaped ridge. On a long summer day it would be very possible to summit all four of these McGuire, Little Sutton, Sutton and Lydia. You also might be able to throw in Pinkham located just to the SE, for good measure.