Elk Mountain Trail
Includes Fielding Coal Creek Trail
Elk Mountain, Glacier National Park
Elk Mountain Trail
Trailhead: Fielding Coal Creek Trailhead, off U.S. Highway 2, mile marker 191
Distance: 3.7 miles (one way)
Elevation Gain: 3,052 vertical feet
The hike to the summit of Elk Mountain in Glacier National Park is a relatively short but grueling day hike, where the trail climbs 3,004 vertical feet in 2.6 miles. Located in the southern section of Glacier National Park, this is one of those Glacier Park hikes where you should be in at least decent physical condition before attempting this strenuous hike. Once you reach the summit of Elk Mountain, you will rewarded by wonderful views all the way around, and you'll soon forget how tiring this hike actually was.
Finding The Trailhead
The trailhead to the Elk Mountain Trail in Glacier National Park is located in what is known as the Snowslip Area, which is about 38 miles east of West Glacier Montana, near Mile Marker 191 on U.S. Highway 2.
You will see the popular Bear Creek Lodge to your left (north), and you will see a gravel road just past this guest ranch. Turn onto this gravel road northward (Gravel Road #1066) and drive less than a quarter mile until you see the Fielding Coal Creek Trailhead sign.
There is an abandoned gravel pit here, and that is where you will park your car. Past this point the road becomes private and cannot be trespassed.
Fielding Coal Creek Trailhead (mile 0.0)
From the Fielding Coal Creek Trailhead sign, the trail takes you along an abandoned road until you encounter a set of railroad tracks. This entire section of the trail is on private land, so please stay on the trail, or you will be trespassing.
Railroad Tracks (mile 1.0)
Make sure there are no trains coming when you cross the railroad tracks on your way to Elk Mountain in Glacier National Park!
When approaching these train tracks, make sure that there are no trains coming! Carefully and quickly cross these tracks, where you will once again pick up the trail on the other side, and then enter Glacier National Park. Continue hiking along the Fielding Coal Creek Trail as you pass the Fielding Coal Creek Patrol Cabin.
Fielding Patrol Cabin (mile 1.1)
Fielding Patrol Cabin, Glacier National Park.
Just past the railroad tracks and the border of Glacier National Park, you will walk by the Fielding Patrol Cabin in Glacier National Park on your way to the summit of Elk Mountain. This cabin is periodically used throughout the summer, mainly by the superb trail crew who keeps these Glacier National Park Trails in excellent condition.
Elk Mountain Trail Junction (mile 1.2)
At approximately mile 1.2, you will encounter the Elk Mountain Trail junction. Take a right here, and prepare to get your workout.
The trail then climbs over 3,020 vertical feet in 2.5 miles! This means that anyone attempting this strenuous hike needs to be in good physical condition. And by the way, make sure you bring water with you because there is no guarantee there will be water available along the trail to filter.
As the Elk Mountain Trail in Glacier National Park climbs in elevation, the views get better and better. You'll first notice outstanding views of the Great Bear Wilderness to the south, including Great Northern Mountain and Stanton Glacier. As you continue to climb in elevation, you will begin to see the sharp spire of Mount Saint Nicholas to the west, and the vast prairie to the east. The great views help keep your mind off how winded you're probably getting!
Shannon hiking up the Elk Mountain Trail in Glacier National Park with the Great Bear Wilderness to the south and Ole Creek to the west.
The Elk Mountain Trail climbs over 3,000 vertical feet in 2.5 miles... so you'd better be in shape!
On the way up to Elk Mountain in Glacier Park, you'll get a great view of Mount Saint Nicholas to the north.
Elk Mountain Summit (mile 3.7)
From the summit of Elk Mountain in Glacier National Park, the views are stunning in all directions. To the east is wide open prairie, to the west is the Ole Creek Valley and the towering mountains beyond it, and to the north Summit Mountain dominates the skyline. Far to the north you can get a glimpse of the Firebrand Pass area at the head of the Ole Creek Valley as well. Also on the summit of Elk Mountain you can't help but notice a few small remnants of an old fire lookout. This lookout was built in the 1930's, and was torn down in 1963. The summit of Elk Mountain is a great place to enjoy a nice lunch while taking in the spectacular views that surround you!
This photo shows you the names of the mountains that you can see up the Ole Creek Valley from the summit of Elk Mountain in Glacier National Park.
A view to the southwest from the summit of Elk Mountain in Glacier National Park. Great Northern Mountain and Stanton Glacier in the Great Bear Wilderness can be seen on the horizon. There is also a great view of the Ole Creek Valley all the way to Highway 2 to the south.
The hike to Elk Mountain in Glacier National Park is quite rewarding, but please keep in mind that there is a lot of vertical gain in a very short distance. Make sure you and your party are in good physical condition before attempting this Glacier National Park hike. If you do, your day on Elk Mountain will be far more enjoyable!
Elk Mountain, Glacier National Park.
More About The Fielding Coal Creek Trail
(See Trail Map at Bottom of Page)
The Fielding Coal Creek Trail not only takes hikers to the Elk Mountain Trail, but it also crosses the Ole Creek Trail and Park Creek Trail on its way to it's junction with the Coal Creek Trail. The Fielding Coal Creek Trail runs parallel with the southwest border of Glacier National Park, and is a useful tool to access country that is very remote and seldom visited. This trail is nicely maintained all the way to Park Creek Campground. The trail then becomes more primitive as it works its way northward to join up with the Coal Creek Trail near the Coal Creek Campground. The saddle below Soldier Mountain, which is located between the Ole Creek Valley and Park Creek Valley is fairly strenuous for those of you who are carrying heavy overnight packs.
A view of a portion of Fielding Coal Creek Trail and Ole Creek Trail from the summit of Elk Mountain in Glacier National Park.
Ole Creek Campground (mile 3.3)
The first backcountry campground you will encounter along the Fielding Coal Creek Trail is Ole Creek Campground, which is 3.4 miles from the Fielding Coal Creek Trailhead. The trail will connect with the Ole Creek Trail, where you must then take a right about a tenth of a mile until you reach the Ole Creek Campground. You will have to ford Ole Creek before reaching the Ole Creek Trail Junction. As you continue heading northwest along the Fielding Coal Creek Trail, you will gain a fair amount of elevation as you reach the saddle below Soldier Mountain.
Park Creek Campground (mile 7.8)
Approximately 4.5 miles northwest of the Ole Creek Campground, you will encounter the Park Creek Trail and the Park Creek Campground, after passing over the saddle below Soldier Mountain. Just beyond the campground, you will then have to ford Park Creek for those of you who are continuing on to Coal Creek Campground and Coal Creek Trail. Please keep in mind that the Fielding Coal Creek Trail now becomes less maintained as it continues onward to the Coal Creek Trail and Campground, which is 8.8 miles from the Park Creek Campground.
Coal Creek Campground (mile 16.7)
8.8 miles later, after hiking on a primitive section of trail, you will reach the Coal Creek Campground and Coal Creek Trail. This area is part of the famous Nyack Coal Creek Loop. Very few people hike from Park Creek to Coal Creek, or vice versa. Instead, most overnight backpackers are either hiking up Park Creek to Two Medicine Pass, or they are on the Nyack Coal Creek Loop, starting at the Nyack Crossing of the Middle Fork Flathead River, and heading for the Boundary Trail near the Coal Creek Crossing. But the trail is there if you want it and it fits your hiking adventure itinerary.