OverviewAt first glance, Warland Peak is a hardly noticeable, evergreen-covered little mountain located in the west central portion of NW Montana's Salish Mountains. But if you know where to look, your curiosity might get the better of you, and you might be pleasantly surprised, by what I think, is a very unique summit area.
In days gone by, when the people in charge of placing lookouts were scouring these mountains looking for the perfect locations, they came up with a winner in Warland Peak. Of course it helps when the lookout tower is 100' high, offering up commanding views in every direction. Stretching out to the north, east and south are miles and miles of the Salish Mountains. Several other ranges are also visible from Warland's tower, further to the east, the Whitefish Range, and to the SW, the Cabinets. Finally to the NW, the Purcells can also be seen.
For very little effort on foot, in fact, climbing the tower was almost as difficult as the hike itself, you are rewarded with all the outstanding views mentioned above. However, it does take some effort by vehicle, to get to the trailhead.
Developed in 1934 with the present 100' steel tower with 7x7' cab and accompanying 10' pole tower with L-4 cab for living quarters, Warland has not been used since the late 1960's. As mentioned, it is possible to climb the tower, on it's new wooden steps, to just below the cab. A note of CAUTION, there is no safety railing at any of the landings prior to climbing the next set of steps up the tower. It would be possible to fall at any of these areas, causing serious injury or death, if one is not extremely careful. I do not recommend children climb the tower, or anyone, attempt to enter the L-4 pole tower.
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 17.2 miles south on #36 to FS Rd #835. #36 is paved but after about 9 miles it becomes a single-lane road with pullouts. Turn right, then drive approximately 3.56 miles to FS Road #4424 and turn right. Drive for .5 miles and then turn left on FS Road #4898. You can park at this intersection and make this a really long hike or you can shorten it up some by parking at any of the many pull-outs along the next 5.48 miles of #4898, or you can drive the full 5.48 miles (as we did this trip) and park at FS Road #4898-Q. (We attempted to hike Warland from a pull-out along #4898 in mid-May, but were turned back by deep, soft snow on the road).
Hike up #4898-Q for .13 miles until coming to the point where Trail #279 crosses the road coming in from the east. Take a left, or west, and head up the steep embankment. After a short while you come to the trail intersection marked by the signpost...pictured below. Obviously, to head to the lookout, you hang a left here and begin hiking on Trail #280.
There are some minor ups-and downs along the trail, and at one point, #280 crosses a rocky meadow, where trail cairns, pictured below, are used to mark the way.
The trail sticks close to the crest of the ridge, briefly affording views to the south, pictured below, before descending southward, away from the ridge crest as it traverses the ridge from east to west.
By now, you have long since lost sight of the lookout tower and just when you think that you may have hiked past it, keep the faith, and continue on the trail and it will begin to curve back upward to the ridge crest and the unique summit area, pictured below.
|Terrain||One-Way Mileage||Elevation Gain|
|FS Road||.13||48'||Trails #279/280||1.03||417'||Total||1.16||465'|
THE HIKE PRESENTED HERE IS VERY SHORT. IF YOU'RE LOOKING FOR MORE, ANOTHER OPTION IS AVAILABLE. THE EASTERN TH FOR #279 ORIGINATES AT THE SUMMIT OF DAVIS MOUNTAIN. WE HAVE NOT HIKED THIS PORTION AND CAN NOT ATTEST TO TRAIL CONDITIONS. IT IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA TO CALL THE FOREST SERVICE TO TRY AND ASCERTAIN SPECIFIC TRAIL CONDITIONS BEFORE HIKING.
Camping and RedTapeWarland 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. We saw lots of bear sign on Warland Peak, and the Salish Mountains are chock full of healthy-sized black bears and the occasional grizzly.
There is no water available on this hike. A map of the Kootenai National Forest and the Rexford/Fortine Ranger District, are helpful in negotiating the many Forest Service Roads. Bug repellent is an absolute necessity in Montana in June, July and August. No ticks were seen on this hike.
The closest campground is North Dickey Lake.