Driving south on Hwy 83 from Bigfork, Montana, one has long been able to gawk at the steep, undulating, west face of the Swan Range
as it seems to erupt from the valley floor like a wall of rock and trees. If you're not careful, as you gawk to the east (left), you'll miss the Mission Range
as it begins to transform the views to the west (right) from walls of pines lining the highway to its' own impressive curtains of rock. Which of these ranges is the most rugged?...the most beautiful? Those are questions which could be debated until the end of time. However, the goal today has already been decided, it is Cedar Peak, the northernmost named peak in the Mission Mountains Wilderness
Normally, views from Cedar Peak would be spectacular in all directions, and they were, except to the east, where the Condon Mountain Wildfire was burning, obscuring views of the Swans.
[img:817149:alignleft:small:Marked intersection][img:817147:alignright:small:Fatty Creek TH]From downtown Whitefish drive south on Hwy 93 for 16 miles to downtown Kalispell. Continue through Kalispell on Hwy 93 south for an additional 8.43 miles to Hwy 82. Turn left or east and drive for 6.87 miles to Hwy 35. Turn right on Hwy 35 and drive south for .4 miles to Hwy 83. Turn left on Hwy 83 and drive south for 63.43 miles to Forest Service Road #10182. This is the first right after the Goat Creek State Forest Complex, and it is easy to miss, as it is not marked, like so many other FS Roads in Montana. Drive into the forest...even armed with maps we weren't sure we were on the right road until we had driven in 5.73 miles and arrived at a marked intersection. Continue straight on #10381 (you DO NOT want Piper Creek) for an additional 3.26 miles to the Fatty Creek TH. You would never know this is the Fatty Creek Road or TH, unless you're a local, as once again, it is not marked.
[img:817124:alignleft:small:Wilderness marker][img:817127:alignright:small:Un-named lake] Hike up the trail for almost 4 miles gaining just under 1400'. Early in the season, there would be many water crossings on this trail, some of them could be problematic due to snowmelt. A couple of long switchbacks get you to a bench where you pass a couple of un-named lakes.
[img:817145:alignleft:small:Climbers trail][img:817128:alignright:small:Cedar Peak early in bushwhack]
After the lakes some steeper switchbacks take you up to the ridge above Cedar Lake. This is where you take a climbers' trail off to the left (east). Unfortunately, this trail is consumed rather quickly by the forest. Bits and pieces of it can be found going up the SW ridge of Cedar, but for all intents and purposes, this route degenerates into a bushwhack.
Walk east on the ridge above Cedar Lake for about 1/4 mile to gain the beginning of the SW ridge. The forest is relatively open, but there is lots of deadfall and tall, thick, grass which hides many holes. Very uneven terrain to deal with.
Head up the ridge for almost a 1/2 mile gaining almost 700', staying to the left, as much as the vegetation will allow, for a clearer and "easier" journey up the ridge to the summit.
|[img:817129:aligncenter:small:Early bushwhack terrain]||[img:817130:aligncenter:small:Farther up SW ridge]||[img:817132:aligncenter:small:Almost to false summit]|
JFKitty ascending the false summit.
THE ACTUAL SUMMIT
|Terrain||One-Way Mileage||Elevation Gain|
|Trail #738||3.86||1365'||Bushwhack to ridge||.24||20'||SW Ridge to Summit||.46||687'||Total||4.56||2072'|
We knew the views of the Swans to the east would be killed by the
Condon Mountain Wildfire, but managed to get the picture below, of
Swan Peak, on the way out, from the road.
Camping and RedTape
Cedar Peak is located in the Mission Mountains Wilderness within 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. We did not see any bear sign on Cedar Peak, but the Mission Range is chock full of healthy-sized black bears and the occasional grizzly.
There is water available on this hike. A map of the Flathead National Forest is 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 official campground is at Point Pleasant