Yaak Mountain is a mid-elevation peak located in northwestern Montana, near the town of Troy. Troy is the lowest elevation community in Montana, so it is only fitting that the surrounding mountains are also not of high stature. However, what Yaak Mountain lacks in elevation it more than makes up in prominence, fire lookout history, and views.
Upper Eastern Slopes Of Yaak Mountain
Yaak Mountain, despite its modest overall elevation of 4995', has a lot of prominence. In fact, with at least 2035' of clean prominence, Yaak Mountain is the 138th-most prominent peak in Montana. The peak is almost completely surrounded by water channels; Yaak River to the west, Kootenai River to the south, O'Brien Creek to the east, and Kilbrennan Creek to the north. Less than 0.25 miles keeps the mountain from being completely surrounded by water and an inland island, and this aspect helps give Yaak Mountain an appearance of being even more prominent than it already actually is by towering above its immediate landscape.
Northwest Side Of Yaak Mountain
Although the peak's prominence is important to many peakbaggers, Yaak Mountain is perhaps most famous for its historic fire lookout located at the summit. A fire lookout was originally constructed in 1914 as a camp lookout only, but then as a 45'-tall pole platform the following year. A frame cupola lookout cabin was then added to the summit by 1919. A 50'-tall pole tower with L-6 cab, plus an adjoining log cabin to be used as the watchman quarters, then replaced the original lookout during the 1930s.
Original (pre-1958) Fire Lookout Base Remains
By the late 1950s the 50'-tall lookout and adjoining log cabin were each torn down, and then replaced by a 41'-tall treated timber lookout tower with R-6 flat cab in 1958. That final lookout still exists, and has been maintained and occasionally staffed over the years, but is presently mainly used as a rental lookout for outdoor enthusiasts.
Yaak Mountain Lookout
Yaak Mountain is not the tallest peak in the region, but some of the most spectacular views of the surrounding areas can be had from its summit. The views from the top of the fire lookout are even more spectacular and wide-ranging. The views of the adjoining river valleys, such as Yaak River and Kootenai River, are great. The town of Troy can be seen as well, only six miles (horizontal distance) south of the mountain.
SE Summit View Towards Troy
A short distance northwest of Yaak Mountain, along Yaak River Road/ Highway 508, Yaak Falls is a popular cascading waterfall and tourist destination. Yaak Falls, Yaak River, and Yaak Mountain are just a few examples of why the nearby town of Troy uses the slogan "Lowest In Elevation, Highest In Recreation".
Yaak Mountain: The Tip Of The Arrow
Yaak Mountain gets its name from nearby Yaak River, which flows southward to the Kootenai River from Canada. In Canada, "Yaak" is spelled "Yahk", and "Kootenai" is spelled "Kootenay". The native Kootenay Tribe of southeastern British Columbia and northwestern Montana used the word "yahk" to describe either a bow or an arrow. It is thought by many scientists that the Kootenay River, with how it heads southward from Canada, enters the United States, and then heads northward back into Canada, can be considered a "bow". The Yaak River, which heads southward towards the middle of that "bow", can be considered the "arrow". This theory is also reinforced by the spelling of "Yaak" in the United States; if ending in "ak" (or the Kootenay word "a'k"), "yaak" represents "arrow".
Hence, with Yaak Mountain being located near the intersection point of the Yaak River and Kootenai River, or in other words where the arrow meets the bow, the mountain could be considered the tip of the arrow.
There is a gate located at the beginning of Yaak Mountain Road #4407, where the road meets Kilbrennan Lake Road #2394. The gate is permanently closed and locked, with road access only provided to the U.S. Forest Service use or by parties with reservations for the Yaak Mountain Lookout. The gate is otherwise permanently closed to help preserve and protect grizzly bear habitat.
Except for the U.S. Forest Service and parties with reservations for Yaak Mountain Lookout, the peak, Yaak Mountain Road #4407, and its branch-roads are for non-motorized access only. Motorized uses on the mountain other than those allowed are punishable by law.
All water sources found on Yaak Mountain are considered contaminated; it is highly recommended to bring potable water from outside sources.
Yaak Mountain Lookout is accessible by reservation only. The top of the fire lookout has a combination lock, and the combination is only provided to parties with current reservations.
Yaak Mountain Lookout can be reserved as much as 180 days in advance, but any reservations made within three days of arrival must be done directly through the Troy ("Three Rivers") Ranger Station. It is highly recommended to make reservations as much in advance as possible, as Yaak Mountain Lookout is one of the most popular and reserved fire lookouts in Montana. It is quite common and possible for the fire lookout to be reserved by many parties throughout entire Summer months. As of Summer 2010, the fire lookout costs $35 per day to rent/reserve, for as many as 14 consecutive nights. A maximum of four people is permitted to be in the fire lookout at any one time.
Yaak Mountain Lookout has no electricity. However, the lookout has a propane stove, propane lighting, table, chairs, and bed. An outhouse is located at the base of the lookout.
Upper Section Of Yaak Mountain Lookout
From Troy, Montana:
1) Drive WNW along Highway 2.
2) After 3.7 miles, turn right (north) onto East Side Road #176.
3) After 1.6 miles, turn right (east) onto Kilbrennan Lake Road #2394.
4) After 2.3 miles, there is a small road/pullout with a gate on the left side (west side) of the road. This marks the beginning of Yaak Mountain Road #4407.
Yaak Mountain Road #4407
-> If the Yaak Mountain Lookout has been reserved (see "Red Tape" section) and the combination to the gate lock has been provided by the U.S. Forest Service as a result... unlock and open the gate, drive through, close & lock the gate, and then drive 5.1 miles to the summit.
-> If no reservation for the Yaak Mountain Lookout has been made and/or no lock combination has been provided, park near the entrance to the gate, making certain not to block the road access, and hike 5.1 miles to the summit.*
*Non-motorized public access to Yaak Mountain is always allowed, even if the fire lookout has been reserved by another party. However, please use courtesy and respect when at the summit during such times, and do not enter the fire lookout without the permission and consent of the party which has reserved rental of the site.
Local camping is only allowed at designated campsites only. The nearest should campsites are:
-> Yaak Mountain Lookout (by reservation only)
-> Yaak River Campground (on the southwest base of the mountain, along Highway 2)
-> Yaak Falls Campground (on the northwest base of the mountain, along Yaak River Road/ Highway 508).