Lake Mountain, Nasukoin

Nasukoin from Lake

Montana is big, even south to north. Driving from the Sawtooths to the Canadian Rockies was more than I wanted to do in a single push, so I wanted to break it up with a peak in between. My only real to-do list for Montana is the 12ers, all of which are in the wrong part of the state, so I pulled up Peakbagger and chose something prominent and reasonably close to the road, then drove until early evening before pulling over at the start of a forest road to sleep. There was a sign explaining all sorts of rules and dangers for winter recreation, but apparently anything goes during the summer. Nasukoin by itself is a fairly short hike along a trail, and I would not enjoy driving twenty miles of variable forest road, so I decided to bike it.

Bear grass

I started off moderately early, finding the first part of the road well-groomed and temperatures pleasant. The road rolls some, but generally climbs as it works around the toe of a ridge and up a river valley. I passed Upper Whitefish Lake, with a few parties at its popular campground, including a family playing near the road. As usual in Montana, the forest camping seemed wholesome and well-taken-care-of, with vault toilets and tidy sites. Growing up in northern New Mexico and Colorado, I associate National Forest camping with firearms and beer, evidenced by practice targets and broken bottles in fire rings, so it always cheers me to see how people respect their public lands in the northern Rockies. Despite its more in-your-face politics, Idaho has a similar vibe.

Larches are weird

Past the campground, the road continues gently for a bit, then deteriorates as it climbs more steeply up a side-valley. I overshot my turnoff by a few yards, and was consulting my map when three women pulled up on bikepacking rigs. They were from Canada, and were riding the southern part of the Great Divide Route, from Field to Whitefish. All were similarly equipped, with full-suspension bikes, very minimal gear, and easily-accessible bear spray. I felt out of place with my semi-slick tires and my bear spray safely buried in the depths of my car. We chatted for a bit, then I corrected my course and climbed up a slightly worse road to the trailhead.

Lake Mountain summit ridge

I paused to check my map, noted that there was no wilderness boundary at the trailhead or signage forbidding bikes, then continued up the trail. I persevered for about half a mile, then decided that it was not worth it, locking my bike to itself by the trail to continue on foot. The mosquitoes were out in force, but did not cause me much trouble as long as I kept moving. The trail switchbacks fairly gently through the woods, then climbing the ridge above Link Lake before switchbacking again to emerge from the trees on Lake Mountain’s crest. I met a woman jogging down the path there, then continued to the summit to take in the view for a moment.

Glacier NP from Nasukoin

Nasukoin looked far away, but I had ridden all that way and had almost sixteen hours of daylight, so I jogged the switchbacks down toward the unnamed lake, then continued along the connecting ridge trail. From the final saddle, the trail makes an elegant but unnecessary switchback across Nasukoin’s southeast face. I left it to climb the south ridge directly to the summit, where I found a large metal pole that probably once held a benchmark. I had been hoping for a panoramic view of Glacier National Park to the east, but the air was hazy from wildfire smoke and the sun was in the wrong place, so I could see only a faint outline. I contented myself with closer views of Stoney Basin Lake and Lake Mountain, then retraced my steps. Near the trailhead I met the couple I had seen camping that morning, who seemed impressed that I had ridden all the way from the highway.


The ride back went quickly, though it was hot enough that I welcomed the few sprinkles of rain I felt. The posted speed limit was 25, but I was emphatically passed by a couple of UTVs despite doing around 20 myself on the slight downhill. The things are far too powerful to be given to civilians, and serve no purpose other than mayhem. I met one more cyclist just shy of the car, then took the time to cook a late lunch before driving into Canada. There was a surprisingly long and slow line at the Roosville crossing but the border guard actually seemed friendly, a rarity in my experience. The drive up the trench between the Rockies and Selkirks can be spectacular — I still need to climb Farnham Tower — but it was too hazy to see much. I rolled through Radium Hot Springs and into Kootenay Park too late to buy a parks pass, but made it to the Lake O’Hara parking well before dark. I had been planning to ride up the road in the morning to tag a peak, but was disappointed to find that it is emphatically and repeatedly signed “no bikes.” I waved my middle finger at the signs, then set my alarm for an earlier start to account for the seven pointless miles of road-hiking I would have to do in both directions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *