Stone Hill Rock Climbing Area:
Another area of particular interest to readers of SummitPost is Stone Hill. Stone Hill is located on the west side of the Salish Mountains and overlooks Lake Koocanusa. It boasts over 300 established routes.
Stone Hill offers climbers of all levels an opportunity to challenge themselves on some routes. Many of the crags are excellent for top-roping, and include permanent bolts for easy rigging. Most routes also provide easy walk-off descents as well. Approach distance is usually less than the height of the crags, and bumper belays have been known to occur on roadside bluffs.
Much of the development in the area, just under half the total routes, can be attributed to the efforts of Steve Stahl, who, during the years of 2000-2003 established over 260 lines.
Routes and Ratings:
Stone Hill is primarily facework/edging with some crack climbing as well. There are 9 main crags both above and below the highway which provide some seclusion and variation in your routes. Routes are available from beginner "stairstep" climbs, all the way to pumpy overhangs.
Stone hill is an area of mostly single pitch bolted and gear routes. Most of the 300+ routes are 5.10 to 5.11, but there are many 5.6 to 5.8 routes and a few 5.12 and 513s. 20 to 50 new routes are going up each year. The rock is quartzite and the routes are generally very safe. All routes
feature top anchors and most are top rope ready. This is a great area for single pitch, mixed sport and trad climbing.
The rock is an extremely hard quartzite derivative, and is characterized by painfully sharp edges, vanishing cracks, steep slabs and small horizontal roofs. The cracks tend to be very protectable, and as a result over half the routes in the area are protected by a combination of bolts and traditional means.
A Guidebook is available at Rocky Mountain Outfitter (RMO)
in Kalispell, Montana. The guidebook is called The Complete Stone Hill Climber’s Guide by Tyler Hawk.
Stonehill Photos on Photos 1
and Photos 2
Kila Crags Guidebook
Another option of less intensity close to Kalispell are the Kila Crags. The Crags are located along U.S. Highway 2 about four miles west of Kila, Montana. The crags are located above the highway along an abandoned railroad grade. There are established bolted routes. Rocky Mountain Outfitters also carries the guidebook for the Kila’s Crags by Tyler Hawk. Tyler also includes routes for climbs at the Somer’s Dump just north of Flathead Lake.
The Salish Mountains contain numerous small lakes that dot the landscape. Most of these lakes are small and many of them have decent fishing. There are 4 larger lakes that garner the attention of anglers. Those lakes are Little Bitterroot Lake, Ashley Lake and McGregor Lake. Tally Lake is Montana’s deepest lake, is 1350 acres in size and is 492 feet deep. It also offers fishing but is not known locally as a fishing hotspot. If the reader desires more information please contact this writer via PM.
Flora and Fauna:
Ponderosa Pines Montana Loon
These mountains hold numerous species of trees and flowers. They abound in color and variety.
The Salish Mountains are home to most of Montana’s ungulates including elk, mule deer, shiras moose, mountain goats, grizzly bear, black bear wolves and mountain lions.
This is bear and mountain lion country. So exercise caution while spending time here.
Camping and USFS Rental Facilities:
Smoke over the Salish Range during a Montana Fire Season
Rental cabins or lookouts are a unique way to experience Montana’s back country. Cabins are generally equipped with the bare basics; a table, chairs, wood stove, and bunks (some have mattresses, some don't). Bedding is not furnished. Cooking utensils are available at some cabins but not all. Electricity and piped-in water are not available. Bring safe drinking water or be prepared to chemically treat or boil drinking water. At some cabins, you will need to find and cut your own firewood. Expect to use outdoor toilets. Telephones are not available!
Star Meadows Guard Station:
The Flathead National Forest has a rental cabin available for $40 per night to groups no larger than 6. It is located near Tally Lake and is pretty much smack dab in the center of the Salish Mountains. The USFS web site describes the Star Meadows Guard Station
“The Star Meadows Guard Station was built in 1941 to replace the building that was located on the site in 1901. The site operated as a work center until the 1960's, housing fire suppression cress, contractors, timber camps, and as a staging area for engineers designing and building the roads on the Tally Lake District. The site was inaccessible during the winter months. In 1991 a cultural survey indicated that the facility was historically significant and placed on the National Historical Register.”
McGuire Mountain Lookout:
The Kootenai National Forest has this cabin available for $25 per night for groups of 4 or less. This cabin affords the possibility to sleep on the tallest mountain in the Salish range.
The USFS web site describes the McGuire Mountain Lookout
“This lookout was built in 1924 and was actively used as an obervation point for detecting forest fires for over 30 years. It was abandoned in the 1950's and renovated in 1998 under a Pit Project, making it eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.”
Kootenai NF campgrounds
Flathead National Forest Campgrounds
East side Campgrounds:
Ashley Lake North
North Dickey Lake
West side Campgrounds:
South side Campgrounds:
Little McGregor Lake
North side Campgrounds:
Little Bitterroot Lions Camp
Maps and Trails:
A trail in the Salish Range.
There are numerous trails in this mountain range. The best way to locate them is to purchase the Flathead National Forest and the Kootenai and East Half Kaniksu National Forests maps from a local sporting goods store.
Maps can also be ordered on line
from the USFS.
Or download a brochure
with a basic map here. Large file and takes some time to download.
Seasons and Conditions:
Snow Shoes and Mountains
Winter generally arrives in Montana’s high country in October and maintains its icy grip until at least April.
The duration of the year generally allows access to the mountains depending upon location and amounts of snow. If traveling away from the main roads do not expect the roads to be plowed or maintained. The USFS does not include this as part of the service they offer the general public.
The Salish range is not known for avalanches but they can and do happen in Montana’s mountains. Please refer to the Glacier Country Avalanche Center
for the latest information.
There are also multiple opportunities for cross country and back country skiing as well as snowmobiling. The areas designated by the National Forest are Black Butte and McGuire Mountain.
Sources, Guidebooks and External Links:Kootenai National Forest
Flathead National Forest