FOREST ROADS No. 365 and No. 2137
Elevation gain: 3,260 feet (from 3,200 feet to 6,460 feet)
A drive on Forest Road No. 365 up Blue Mountain will give you some tremendous views of the Missoula Valley and, at the right time of the year, an opportunity to visit a working Forest Service lookout.
The road heads west off Blue Mountain Road (County Road 30) about 1.25 miles from the intersection with Highway 93 South. On the way up the mountain, notice the different vegetative zones. At first, you pass through open, park-like ponderosa pine stands, then Douglas fir-ponderosa pine, and finally, Douglas fir-western larch.
Trailheads for Blue Mountain's motorcycle-ATV trail network and a short self-guided natural trail are situated along this road. You can access the area's National Recreation Trail from several points along the roadway.>
At about the 9.5-mile mark, look for a road that branches off to the left. This is Forest Road No. 2137, which takes you to the lookout. The lookout is in service through the fire season (usually July and August). At other times, the gate is locked.
You can climb steps all the way to the top of the lookout during fire season and if the lookout is on duty and has time, he or she will often give you a tour.
The scenery from this vantage point is breathtaking. You'll have a memorable view of Lolo Peak, a landmark on the Missoula horizon, and the impressive pinnacles of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness to the south and west. On a clear day, you can see the Mission Mountains to the northwest.
If you take a tour, please remember that the lookout is on the job. Don't overstay your welcome and be considerate if a fire emergency demands the lookout's attention.
A gate a quarter-mile below the lookout is closed during the off-season, restricting motor-vehicle access to the lookout. However, you can still walk or bike up to the lookout.
In winter, the first mile of Forest Road No. 365 is normally open to provide access to sledders and snowmobilers, but no motor-vehicle traffic (except snowmobiling) is permitted beyond a locked gate at this point. A hill just below the gate is a favorite sledding and tubing spot for Missoulians of all ages.
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