GREAT FALLS, Mont. — Getting to any of Glacier National Park’s nine remaining fire lookout towers isn’t just a walk in the park.
“None of them are real easy to get to,” said David Butler, author of “Fire Lookouts of Glacier National Park.” But most are worth the hike.
Swiftcurrent Lookout is one of the easiest to reach.
Depart from the Swiftcurrent Trailhead in the Many Glacier Area. From there, it’s 6.6 miles with 2,300 feet of elevation gain to Swiftcurrent Pass. Just after the pass, a trail heads north 1.4 miles to Swiftcurrent Lookout.
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Swiftcurrent Lookout also can be reached by taking the Highline Trail from Logan Pass 7.6 miles to Granite Park Chalet. From there, it’s just less than a mile to the trail junction with the Swiftcurrent Lookout trail and 1.4 miles to the lookout.
The Swiftcurrent Lookout is “fantastic,” Butler said, but “the hike up there is tough.”
Numa Ridge Lookout is a 5.6-mile hike from Bowman Campground on Bowman Lake. The trail gains almost 3,000 feet.
The hike to Huckleberry Lookout is six miles each way with 2,725 feet of elevation gain. Huckleberry Mountain trailhead is located on Camas Road northwest of Apgar.
Mount Brown Lookout is one of Butler’s favorites, but the hike there is one of his least favorites.
“Mount Brown is the worst by far,” he said.
The hike to the lookout is 5.3 miles, but the trail gains 4,300 feet. It starts at the Sperry Trailhead, across from Lake McDonald Lodge.
“The first two miles are not as bad as the last three miles,” Butler said.
The trail winds its way up 29 switchbacks in the last three miles. Some are so steep that hikers practically have to climb on their hands and knees to get up them, he said.
Swiftcurrent, Numa Ridge, Huckleberry and Scaplock lookouts are usually staffed during the summer. Whether or not visitors are allowed inside the lookout is up to the person staffing it. In many cases, if you knock on the door, they’ll invite you in, Butler said.