Last Saturday, July 18, 2015 was the Coal Ridge Lookout Hike. We set this up as part of the Montana Wilderness Association’s “Wilderness Walks” program, with North Fork Trails providing the hike leaders. The route follows Flathead National Forest Trail 2 from the trailhead on Moran Basin Road until it intersects Trail 14 on top of Coal Ridge. The remains of the old Coal Ridge lookout are a short distance east along the ridge-top. The round trip distance is about 6.8 miles (11 km).
Trouble is, it was a damp, cool, foggy morning and no one but Randy and I showed up — wimps. So, we did the hike anyway. About three hours later, we were on the ridge-top, enjoying the sunshine and a nice view. Our missing hikers were still down there in the dank fog.
View from Coal Ridge – fog in the valleys
We had a pleasant time at the site of the old fire lookout. We had a leisurely lunch, tried to identify some of the peaks in Glacier Park and surveyed the surrounding territory with a view toward future visits.
Coal Ridge – packing up after lunch
Coal Ridge – remains of old lookout
On the way up, we took note of a stretch of ripe huckleberries. On the way back, we stopped for some berry picking. Randy anticipated adding his to pancakes. Mine ended up on ice cream.
Trail 2 – huckleberries
Altogether, a very pleasant day. Any expedition that ends with huckleberries is a success.
It seems the Coal Ridge “patrol cabin” (on Trail 14, just west of the Trail 2 intersection) was actually the original lookout up there. Anyways, it got new siding last week to go with the roof that was installed a couple of years ago . . .
An historic lookout up the North Fork on Coal Ridge received some badly needed care last week as Forest Service crews installed new siding on the weather-beaten building.
The Coal Ridge Lookout, which has sat atop the Whitefish Range since 1928, doesn’t resemble a lookout — the current map actually calls it a cabin. It has small windows, and the Osborne Fire Finder used to pinpoint fire starts was mounted on a metal pole outside of the building.
But it was a definitely a fire lookout, Flathead National Forest lookout Leif Haugen said.
Read more . . .
For more information on this project, go to http://www.nwmt-ffla.org/#!2014-projects/c1nlq and scroll down to the “Moran Patrol Cabin” section.
On July 10, we took another look at Moran Basin Road (Road 5241). The slides had been cut out a few days earlier (reportedly, not by the Forest Service but by a third party), so we were able to reach the Trail 2 trailhead. Time was limited, so I decided to go as far up the trail as I could get by mid-afternoon.
Trail 2 is a popular local hike, climbing south along the western edge of the Moran Creek Basin until it reaches the crest of Coal Ridge near the old lookout and patrol cabin. Although I didn’t reach the ridge top, I got several photos along the way.
Here’s the trail near the beginning. As you can see, it’s in great shape.
Trail 2 – Near Start
The remains of the lookout are still standing.
Coal Ridge Lookout From a Distance
There were quite a few water crossings, including this nice waterfall. John’s dog, Blue, is certainly enjoying it.
Trail 2 Waterfall
At that altitude, the wildflowers were still in full display.
Trail 2 – Wildflowers
I had to turn around at this point — near Coal Ridge, but not yet above the trees.
Trail 2 – Nearing Coal Ridge