Magazine article Sunset

Spring to Columbia Mountain

Magazine article Sunset

Spring to Columbia Mountain

Article excerpt

In northern Montana, where winter lingers, it's not easy to find a trail where the snow melts early. When nearby Glacier National Park still slumbers under a mantle of white, locals take to Columbia Mountain, just off U.S. 2.

The multiuse Columbia Mountain Trail begins in a thick forest with intermittent views of the valley below. Eventually it bursts into the open, where the vistas are panoramic. The bottom portion switchbacks past shale bands, then climbs the mountain's western flank, with one big dip before the final pull to the top. As it emerges from the trees, the trail steepens into a series of challenging switchbacks. The total elevation gain of more than 4,000 feet is daunting to many people, but the first half is mellow enough for casual hikers.

At first, the highway, the Flathead River, and the railroad line seem just beyond reach; trucks, kayaks, and freight trains look like toys. Only when the valley recedes do your immediate surroundings come into focus.

Even hikers who don't make it all the way to the top can appreciate Columbia Mountain's stunning diversity of flora. Douglas firs, junipers, larches, and aspens flank the trail. Pillow-soft moss clings to shaded rocks. Streams and waterfalls trickle down the lower mountain, and wildflowers pop up in small clearings; look for bear grass, glacier lilies, shooting stars, spring beauties, trilliums, and yellow bells. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.