Elevation – 7,753’
Route Type – Hike
Class Level – Class 1
Length of Time Required to Complete Route – Half a Day
Boulder Point, with an elevation of 7,753’, lays along a long west-northwest ridge crest which it shares with three(3) other high points over 9,000', Bouler Peak at 9,804', East Boulder Peak at 9,442', and Boulder Peak North at 9,334'.
Some may wonder why Boulder Point is considered to be a high point when three(3) higher points lay along the crest of the same ridge. Well, if you ever visit Boulder Point, you will come to appreciate the formidable effort required to reach this particular outcropping makes it a "destination" in its own right (There is more elevation gain from the trailhead to Boulder Point than there is from Boulder Point to Boulder Peak).
The Boulder Peaks Ridge is on the south side of the Boulder Creek Drainage with Trapper Peak just to the north. The Boulder Peak Ridge high-points are little known and seldom visited in spite of the fact that an old lookout tower awaits visitors on the Boulder Point summit.
Said lookout tower is open to public use (first come, first serve) and is currently being repaired and restored by an active ski club which uses it as a destination for winter outings. A visit during July 2006 verified that the lookout tower is in a good enough state of repair to protect occupants from the weather. There is a wood stove for heat, pots and pans for cooking, and minimal sleeping gear for a couple of people. One nice feature is the existence of an operational outhouse a few yards away which even included toilet paper, a real surprise on a Montana summit!
Two of the reasons these peaks are visited so seldom is their remoteness coupled with the fact that the trail to Boulder Point is a real lung-buster and the lack of any defined trail from Boulder Point to the Boulder Peak summits.
From Darby, MT, go south on Hwy 93 just under 4.5 miles and turn right (southwest) onto Montana Highway 473 (West Fork Road). Drive a short distance past mile marker 13 and turn right (northwest) onto Barn Draw Road (373) - the second road on your right.
Continue on Barn Draw Road for almost 2 miles to a signed junction and turn right (northeast), following the sign for Boulder Point Trailhead. The road will end at the trailhead in just over a mile.
The trailhead is now marked. There are parking spots for several vehicles, but no restroom facilities.
Red TapeThe standard wilderness regulations apply.
CampingThe best camping spot I saw was the lookout tower on Boulder Point. Even if you don't use the lookout itself, there are several other locations where one could set up camp AND be close to an outhouse. Pretty nice for a summit!
At this point the trail turns in a more westerly direction and enters patches of very thick woods. About .75 mile from the trailhead the trail enters a series of switchbacks and ascends an especially steep section before once again turning west and traversing from about 6,000’ to 6,400’.
Another section of steep switchbacks begin about 1.25 miles from the trailhead as you move upward to 6,500’. This is followed by steep trail taking you up another 800’ as you traverse west over the mountain's side.
The last half mile of trail goes directly north and straight up the mountain to the small saddle just west of the lookout – not a switchback in sight. This is undoubtedly the steepest section of the trail and will thoroughly test your legs. The fact that the outhouse sits in the saddle directly in your path as you reach the ridgeline, suggests to me that the builders of the trail (and maybe the outhouse) had a twisted sense of humor.
Some guide books suggest the length of the trail from trailhead to Boulder Point is around 2.25 miles. My GPS measured it as 2.7 miles with 2,629’ of gain. Since the same books describe the trail as generally following the ridgeline from School Point to Boulder Point and this is absolutely not the case, I can only assume the trail has been re-engineered to include more switchbacks since their publication.
In any case, this is a difficult hike which requires strong lungs and legs plus a good deal of stamina. No water is available along the trail, so you must carry whatever you believe you will need.
When to GoThe trail to Boulder Point is good enough to be used anytime during the year. Obviously since a ski club is working to improve the lookout, even winter use is expected.