Hiked May 1, 2016
TRAILHEAD: Take MT-37, the Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway, west of Eureka Montana. After 13 miles turn right, west, and cross the Lake Koocanusa Bridge then turn left, south, on paved road NFD 92. After 1.5 miles the trail departs from an ample pullout on your right. The only sign is a PNT marker nailed to a stump.
SERVICES: Nothing at the trailhead. Web Mountain Lookout has an outhouse. There is no water along this trail so bring all you will need.
STATS: 4.2 miles one way. Elevation gain 3354ft. Elevation loss 44ft. Surface is dirt and rock, some loose, with several large steps. No bouldering. Several trees down across the trail when we hiked it.
DIFFICULTY: Physically Strenuous. Easy navigation.
We found the Web Mountain Lookout Trail while on a spontaneous search for where the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail (PNT) crosses Lake Koocanusa. We are fascinated by long trails and the PNT, running from Glacier Park in the east to the Olympic Peninsula in the west, is one of the newer, less established venues making it even more attractive.
Anyway, we found this trailhead about two in the afternoon last Sunday and decided 'what the heck - the map indicates it's only three miles to the top' - strapped on our backpacks and, well, what a pleasant surprise this trail turned out to be.
The first surprise was how much the actual trail switchbacked versus the route on our topographic map. Obviously the trail has been rebuilt to take out some of the steepness while adding distance. I feel that's a pretty good trade as the trail is steep enough as is.
Wildflowers were our second surprise. The lower elevations sported flowers we wouldn't normally see blooming for a couple weeks like Arnica and Oregon Grape while near the top, emerging along the edges of a few remaining snow patches we saw expanses of yellow Glacier Lilly. In-between there were dense patches of Clematis, aka Virgins Bower, and, if we looked hard, several pink Fairy Slipper orchids.
Our last surprise was how nice the 360° view was from Web Mountain Lookout. Looking north one can see Lake Koocanusa in the foreground with the snowcapped Canadian Rockies on the horizon. More snowcapped peaks to the south punctuate just how wild the really area is.
We exclaimed so loudly over the wildflower show that it's unsurprising we didn't see much wildlife. Plenty of sign though. Ruby-crowned kinglets were singing, wood-peckers knocking and grouse drumming all round us and elk tracks were everywhere. Quieter hikers would be bound to see something interesting.
All in all we found this hike to be invigorating and interesting. In summer one can drive to, and I'm told even rent, Web Mountain Lookout. With proper planning you could then hike this trail one way. However, that would mean waiting until later in the season and I suspect the wildflower bloom won't last long as soils dry out. Go now, if you can, for a very interesting dayhike.