NORTH SUMMIT and LOLO PEAK
Miles: 5.5 miles to North Summit; 6.5 miles to Lolo Peak
Elevation Gain: North Summit, 2,894 feet (from 5,800 to 8,694 ft.); Lolo Peak, 3,296 feet (from 5,800 to9,096 ft.)
Dogs: No restrictions
North Summit is the magnificent mountain towering above the Missoula Valley to the southwest. It's often mistaken for Lolo Peak, which is behind it but not visible from some parts of the valley.
Either of these peaks is a good destination if you want to get into the high country around Missoula. Plan for a strenuous, all-day trip. Depending on whether you head for North Summit or Lolo Peak, it's 2,900- or 3,300-foot climb. The trail is steep, with an average grade of 23 percent and 30-40 percent grades along some sections.
You'll be rewarded with a spectacular view into the adjacent Selway Bitterroot Wilderness and the Missoula Valley. Carlton Lake, below the two peaks, is a good place to take a rest or set up camp for the night.
Start at the Mormon saddle on Mormon Peak Road, 8.5 miles from Highway 12. Follow Lolo Peak Trail (No. 1311). As you gain elevation, notice that the vegetation is changing from lodgepole pine and alpine fir to alpine larch. This species of larch is unique to high elevations in the northwest, and this is the only place you'll find it in the Lolo Forest's Missoula Ranger District.
After about four miles, you'll come to Carlton Ridge, elevation 8,252 feet. Carlton Lake, North Summit and Lolo Peak are visible from here, but there are no developed trails to either peak. However, the country is quite open and it won't be difficult to find your way. Depending on your route, it's about 1.5 miles to North Summit and 2.5 miles to Lolo Peak. You'll be scrambling over rocks for much of this distance.
You may notice a primitive road ending at Carlton Lake.
Mormon Peak Road ends about one mile beyond the Mormon saddle at the summit of Mormon Peak. This road is closed to motor-vehicle traffic from Dec. 1-May 15 to reduce disturbance of elk on winter range. Usually, the trail isn't clear of snow until early July.