Loneman Lookout Trail
Includes the Boundary Trail
Loneman Lookout on the summit of Loneman Mountain, Glacier National Park
Trailhead: U.S. Highway 2, Nyack Crossing of the Middle Fork Flathead River
Distance: 7.4 miles (one way)
Elevation Gain: 3,900 vertical feet
The hike to Loneman Lookout and the summit of Loneman Mountain is an interesting Glacier National Park day hike, as it requires fording the Middle Fork of the Flathead River as well as Nyack Creek. So if you like fording streams and rivers, then this is the hike for you. Once you're at the top of Loneman Mountain, the Loneman Lookout will give you remarkable and seldom seen views of the Nyack Valley, Harrison Lake Valley, and the Great Bear Wilderness. The Loneman Lookout Trail gains 3,100 vertical feet in less than 5.0 miles, so make sure you're in adequate physical condition before attempting this Glacier Park hike.
Finding The Trailhead (Nyack Crossing)
The trailhead to the Loneman Lookout and the summit of Loneman Mountain in Glacier National Park is located approximately 10.9 miles east of West Glacier Montana along U.S. Highway 2.
Known as "The Nyack Crossing", the exact location is between mile markers 164 and 165. Between these mile markers you will see a railroad access road to the north (left). Take this road.
When this short gravel road approaches the railroad tracks, turn right and drive another 0.2 miles until you see a parking area and a trail sign stapled to a power pole. You will be near a bridge where U.S. Highway 2 crosses the railroad tracks. Park your vehicle so you do not block the road. You then must ford the Middle Fork of the Flathead River to begin your Glacier Park hiking adventure to Loneman Mountain and Loneman Lookout.
Nyack Crossing, Middle Fork Flathead River Ford (mile 0.0)
We highly recommend that you get a map (they are readily available) of the Nyack Crossing from a Glacier Park backcountry office of Glacier National Park visitor center. This map will show you exactly how to get to the Nyack Crossing, as well as where the crossing actually is. At these offices, the rangers will tell you precisely where to attempt to ford the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, because this exact location changes depending the amount of water that is flowing down the river and the time of year.
For tips on fording a mountain river or stream, please CLICK HERE.
Once you've crossed the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, you then have to find your way to the Nyack Crossing Trail Sign. There are USUALLY yellow or red flagging tape tied to trees along the way, so carefully look for these markers (see photo below).
Nyack Crossing Trail Sign (mile 0.3)
Once you've located the Nyack Crossing Trail sign in Glacier National Park, then simply follow the trail to the Boundary Trail junction that is located about 0.2 miles ahead. The Nyack Crossing Trail sign marks the boundary of Glacier National Park.
The Nyack Crossing Trail Sign marks the boundary line of Glacier National Park.
Boundary Creek Trail Junction (mile 0.6)
Once you encounter the Boundary Creek Trail Junction, take a left on this trail.
Shortly after taking a left on the Boundary Trail, you will encounter the abandoned Nyack Cabin.
This area is part of the Nyack Ranger Station Historic District, and all that remains is the cabin and barn. The Nyack Cabin was built in 1928, and the barn was built in 1935.
The abandoned Nyack Ranger Station Historic District is full of a rich and colorful history, and we highly recommend that you look into it if you're a history buff because it's quite fascinating. Now these buildings will eventually disappear, with only history books to remind us of their existence.
Historic Nyack Ranger Station Cabin in Glacier National Park. This abandoned complex is now part of the Nyack Ranger Station Historic District.
Once you snap a few shots of this historic old cabin and barn, then continue hiking along the Boundary Creek Trail northward for 0.7 miles until you reach the Nyack Creek Trail Junction.... but just before this junction, you must ford Nyack Creek, which will definitely wake you up if you're feeling a little sleepy!
Nyack Creek Ford (mile 1.3)
David crossing Nyack Creek in Glacier National Park. By the way, Nyack Creek is really, really cold!
The first thing you will notice about Nyack Creek in Glacier National Park is that it is really cold! The Nyack is fed by glaciers around the Mount Stimson area, and this water doesn't seem to warm up any by the time it reaches this spot! This is a slow moving but fairly deep ford, so definitely take off your pants as well as your boots if you don't want wet clothes.
Once you ford Nyack Creek, there is a steep bank waiting for you immediately upon getting out of the water on the opposite bank. It's quite difficult to gracefully get up this hill with your overnight back on while wearing your river sandals. Thankfully, there is a level spot with a log part of the way up to the left. You might consider putting on your pants and boots at this level area before continuing up the hill.
Nyack Creek Trail Junction (mile 1.4)
Once you reach the top of the steep bank, shortly after this you will encounter the Nyack Creek Trail Junction. Keep going straight (left) on the Boundary Trail to reach the Loneman Lookout Trail junction. If you take a right instead, you'll be officially on the infamous 43.1 mile long Nyack-Coal Creek Loop that takes multi--day hikers into some of the most remote country in Glacier National Park.
The Boundary Trail in Glacier National Park takes you to the Loneman Lookout Trail Junction.
About The Boundary Creek Trail
The Boundary Creek Trail runs from West Glacier Montana to the Coal Creek Crossing of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, which is 16.7 miles to the south of West Glacier. The Boundary Creek Trail connects with four major hikes, which include the Lincoln Creek Trail, Harrison Lake Trail, Loneman Lookout Trail, the Nyack Creek Trail, and the Coal Creek Trail in that order. It is also where the three main fords of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River are located, which are the "Harrison Lake Crossing", the "Nyack Crossing" and the "Coal Creek Crossing". (See map located at the bottom of this page.)
Loneman Lookout Trail Junction (mile 2.0)
As you continue to follow the Boundary Trail, you will get a rather nice view of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River to your left. NOW PAY CLOSE ATTENTION here, because you will NOT see a Loneman Trail Junction sign (unless the trail crew put it up after we made this hike). So in about a half of a mile, you will see a heavily traveled unmarked trail heading up hill to your right. This is the Loneman Lookout Trail, so take it. If you don't, you'll remain on the Boundary Trail all the way to West Glacier, which is about 12 miles north of where you are standing!
Shannon looking back at the Middle Fork Flathead River Valley along the Loneman Lookout Trail in Glacier National Park, with the Great Bear Wilderness dominating the skyline.
The Loneman Lookout Trail in Glacier National Park takes you through an old forest fire, where a few mature Larches still tower over you as the trail really begins to gain in elevation here. In fact, the trail will climb 3,100 vertical feet in less than 5.0 miles. The trail initially takes you up to a large shelf, there it than meanders through a forest of very young larch and lodgepole pines, with the remnants of large, old growth trees that were destroyed in the fire. Once you get onto this shelf, you will get a good view of Loneman Lookout directly ahead you to the east. The trail remains quite level here for about a quarter of a mile, and then the actual hike up Loneman Mountain begins.
Shannon hiking through the burn area on her along the Loneman Lookout Trail in Glacier National Park. Loneman Mountain is directly in front of her.
There are a fair number of switchbacks on the trail along the west slope of Loneman Mountain which makes this hike far less strenuous, but it is still a "grunt" and you really should be in adequate physical condition to make this Glacier National Park day hike. And good news.... there is a spring along the trail where you can use your water filter and replenish your Nalgene bottles or Camelbak. As the trail takes you higher and higher, you will get great views of the Great Bear Wilderness to the south, including Great Northern Mountain with Stanton Glacier resting on its north face.
Shannon hiking along the west slope of Loneman Mountain in Glacier National Park, climbing in elevation with each step.
Then, just when you think you're near the top, the trail begins to head straight south and takes you over the ridge to the south side of Loneman Mountain, where it then begins to climb it's southern slope (see photos below). This however provides excellent views of the Nyack Creek Valley, and the mountains above it, such as Threetops Mountain, Threesuns Mountain and Mount Stimson. Far to the distant south you can see the sharp spire of Mount Saint Nicholas of the southern region of Glacier National Park (see photos below).
The Loneman Lookout Trail in Glacier National Park eventually heads straight south, crosses over the ridge, and begins heading northward again along the south slope of Loneman Mountain.
This is a view directly to the south from the south slope of Loneman Mountain in Glacier National Park.
Eventually the Loneman Lookout Trail in Glacier National wraps around onto the north slope as it seems to "corkscrew" around Loneman Mountain. On this final stretch along the north slope just under the summit, you'll get a rare glimpse of Harrison Lake and the Harrison Lake Valley, as well as the gigantic Mount Jackson at the head of this remote valley.
Loneman Lookout and Loneman Mountain Summit (mile 7.4)
Once you reach the summit of Loneman Mountain in Glacier National Park, you will enjoy wonderful views in all directions. And to even get a better view, don't hesitate to take the steps up to the Loneman Lookout observation deck, provided the person who lives in the lookout station is okay with it (they usually welcome it actually).
Shannon on the summit of Loneman Mountain with Loneman Lookout sharing the summit with her.
From the observation deck of the Loneman Lookout in Glacier National Park, you can see the Great Bear Wilderness to the south, including Great Northern Mountain and Stanton Glacier. To the east you will get a great look at the Nyack Creek Valley, along with this famous valley's surrounding mountains, such as Threetops Mountain, Threesuns Mountain and Mount Stimson. Far to the south you will see the sharp spire of Mount Saint Nicholas poking into the sky. Walton Mountain is seen to the northeast, blocking the view of Harrison Glacier and Mount Jackson. Straight north you will be able to see the mountains above Lake McDonald, such as Stanton Mountain and Mount Vaught.
This is a view to the south of the fabled Nyack Creek Valley and the surrounding mountains from the observation deck of Loneman Lookout in Glacier National Park.
The day we made this hike to Loneman Lookout for this website, the clouds were really coming in, and the moment we reached the summit, the rain really started to come down hard. It was also lightning and thundering in the distance, so we spent about a minute on top, and the photos did not do this spectacular vantage point justice. We'll hike to Loneman Lookout again on a clear day to better show you the wonderful views from this unique vantage point in Glacier National Park.
We snapped this shot of Loneman Mountain in Glacier National Park once we hiked back down in the pouring rain and forded the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. The weather does not always cooperate with our plans, but that makes everything even more special when it does.