The Crown of the Continent Grand Tour

Lake McDonald and the Larches from Mt. Brown.

Training for 2012 started today!  Took in a speedy hike to the Mt. Brown lookout this afternoon, 1:50 up, 3;30 round trip.  (4300′ of gain, 11.5 miles total).  12 meters/minute average climbing rate.  Not bad for having spent the last 3 months drinking beer and fly fishing.

I’d like to do at least two big trips next year.  The first will be either Hardrock (if I get in) or the Classic.  The second will be the trip I’m about to detail below.  Doing a hiking and packrafting trip to Isle Royale in the fall would be nice, but that (time off, $$) might be a bit of a stretch.  (The cost/logistics of an Isle Royale trip are considerable.)  We may or may not live here for years and years, and in general putting things like this off are bad policy.  The idea began while talking with Justin back in September, and the final catalyst was finishing off a BPL guide to backpacking and packrafting Glacier and the Bob yesterday.  Ergo, I present below the ultimate Crown of the Continent Grand Tour.  If you can only do one trip in Glacier and the Bob in your life, do this one.

Start: Monture Creek TH, north of Ovando.  Time of year; late July to early August (Middle Fork below 2000 cfs, South Fork @ Twin Creek above 1000.  Ideally.).

Day 1: Hike ~25 miles up Monture Creek, over the pass, down to Youngs Creek.  Catch some fish.

Day 2: Inflate packrafts, float the fun whitewater of lower Youngs Creek, and the gorgeous placidity of the upper South Fork of the Flathead.  Catch fish.  Camp a bit short of the White River.

Day 3: Take out at the White River.  Hike over White River pass, then north.  Camp just short of the no camping zone along the base of the Chinese Wall.

Day 4: Hike along the Chinese Wall, then down past Larch Hill to Spotted Bear Pass.  Down to the Spotted Bear River.  Unlikely to be floatable that high.  Catch some fish.  Camp at Pentagon Creek.

Day 5: Hike over Pentagon Pass, down Dolly Varden Creek to the Middle Fork.  Inflate the boats and float as close to the start of Three Forks as possible.  Catch some big fish.

Day 6: Battle down Three Forks, catch some fish, enjoy the awesome scenery.  Camp a bit beyond Granite Creek.

Day 7:  Float to Spruce Park, run/portage Spruce, continue floating down past Essex.  Camp on a gravel bar near Coal Creek.  Pick up food cache.

Day 8: Float down to Nyack Creek.  Hike up Nyack, bushwack over Red Eagle Pass, bushwack down until Red Eagle is floatable, camp at Red Eagle Head.  Catch some fish (state record Cutt was caught in Red Eagle Lake).

Day 9: Float Red Eagle to St. Mary Lake.  Hopefully cross the lake.  Hike over Siyeh and Piegan Passes.  Dinner at St. Mary Hotel.  Might as well get a shower and bed, too.

Day 10: Hike over/through the Ptarmigan Tunnel, packraft the Belly River to the confluence, hike up and camp at Lower Glenns Lake.

Day 11: Hike over Stony Indian Pass, packraft the Waterton River down to the lake, hike up to Lake Francis.  Camp.  Catch some fat Browns in the lake.

Day 12: Hike over Brown and Boulder Passes.  Packraft a bit of upper Kintla Creek (perhaps?).  Catch some fish.  Camp at Upper Kintla.

Day 13: Hike to the foot of Kintla, packraft the creek, packraft the North Fork down to Polebridge.  Walk to the Merc.  Have a beer.  Have more beer and a big steak from the Northern Light Saloon outside at a picnic table.  Contemplate the metaphysical and spiritual equivalent of smelling this cooking.


Optional extension/logistical options for out of towners:

Fly into Missoula.  Hitchhike or hire a ride on Craigslist to the start.  After lunch/dinner in Polebridge, keep floating as far as you can.  It’ll likely take the better part of two days to float, under summer water levels, from Polebridge to the Pressentine Bar fishing access.  The Kalispell airport is only a ~3 mile roadwalk away.


  1. Are you one of the many applicants waiting for fate to decide if you’ll get in to HR? You’ll definitely have most of the first half of 2012 cut out for you training for HR. I’ve got my fingers crossed you get in man!

    1. My odds are not good, but it seems like time to start trying.

      If I did the hike I did today 8 times that would be Hardrock (distance and gain), just not at altitude. Doesn’t seem too bad ;)

  2. “Not bad for having spent the last 3 months drinking beer and fly fishing.” The key word is recovery. Is there a better way to recover from past adventures than beer & fishing? :D

    Even though I don’t know the Glacier & Bob area the plan sounds great judging by the amount of hiking & packrafting. I have mixed feelings about the forthcoming winter: Winter is great season for adventure and I’m very comfortable with it – but I’d like do too more packrafting…

  3. For those who don’t know the Glacier/Bob area; the above schedule presupposes quite a bit of speed and efficiency. There’s plenty of time built in for fishing and photos, but only if you usually hike 3+ mph on trails.

    Right now I’m eating an egg sandwich with the bacon jam linked to above. It’s really, really good. We used espresso and molasses rather than coffee and maple syrup. Thanks to Mike for sending it my way.

Leave a Comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s