The Best Day Hikes in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness!

Some of my favorite hikes in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness in Montana!  Clockwise from upper left: Leigh Falls, Kootenai Swinging Bridge, Berray Mountain Lookout, and St. Paul Peak
Some of my favorite hikes in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness in Montana! Clockwise from upper left: Leigh Falls, Kootenai Swinging Bridge, Berray Mountain Lookout, and St. Paul Peak

Tucked away into a corner of northwestern Montana, the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness is definitely overshadowed by Glacier National Park to the east.  And while it’s true that I love the scenery of Glacier more, the Cabinet Mountains offer a near-solitude experience without the fees, traffic, permits, and crowds that plague the national park.  However, it’s hard to find detailed or reliable information about hiking in the Cabinets, so here I’ll tell you about some of my favorite hikes in (and near) the wilderness!

The Berray Mountain Lookout, Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, Montana
The Berray Mountain Lookout

Berray Mountain West Trail.  The disused fire lookout on top of Berray (pronounced Berry) Mountain has some terrific views.  Plus, in July, the wildflowers are outstanding.  The longer trail up the peak is accessible by most vehicles, but I opted for the shorter route from the end of a remote dirt road. 4.1 miles out & back

Leigh Falls, Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, Montana
Leigh Falls below Leigh Lake

Leigh Falls & Leigh Lake.  The trail to Leigh Falls and Leigh Lake is one of the most popular in the Cabinets – I saw at least six other people when I hiked up there!  While the lake is nice, it’s the waterfall that made the hike special for me. 3.1 miles out & back

Enjoying the view of Wanless Lake from Goat Peak, Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, Montana
Enjoying the view of Wanless Lake from Goat Peak

Goat Peak/Wanless Lake.  It’s a long, steep trek in the forest, but the views from Goat Peak are fantastic!  If you don’t mind a very long dayhike or you want to do an overnight, I hear that going down to Wanless Lake is beautiful. 13.0 miles out & back to Goat Peak; about 18 miles out & back to Wanless Lake

Wildflowers and views from St. Paul Peak, Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, Montana
Wildflowers and views from St. Paul Peak

Cliff Lake/St. Paul Peak.  There is no official trail up St. Paul Peak, but if you don’t mind a bit of scrambling, the views at the top are amazing.  And if you’d rather keep it chill, Cliff Lake does have a trail.  To get to either one, you’ll have to take the trail to Milwaukee Pass below Chicago Peak.  The area is less visited than it might be because of the condition of the road to get to it (4×4 is required to get all of the way to the trailhead).  3.8 miles out & back to St. Paul Peak; 2.0 miles out & back to Cliff Lake

Views down the valley along the Rock Lake Trail, Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, Montana.  Photo Credit Bonnie Kirkwood, all rights reserved.
Views down the valley along the Rock Lake Trail. Photo Credit Bonnie Kirkwood, all rights reserved.

Rock Lake. This is another of the “popular” hikes in the Cabinet Mountains.  The trail also boasts a waterfall and an old mine. 11.4 miles out & back

One of the Geiger Lakes from Lost Buck Pass, Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, Montana.  Photo credit miles.robby, all rights reserved
One of the Geiger Lakes from Lost Buck Pass. Photo credit miles.robby, all rights reserved

Geiger Lakes to Lost Buck Pass.  This is one hike I’m sorry I missed when I last visited the Cabinets.  The trail takes you past two lakes and then up to a pass with great views down on Wanless Lake.  8.4 miles out & back

A small part of Kootenai Falls, Montana
A small part of Kootenai Falls

Kootenai Falls & Swinging Bridge.  While it’s technically not in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, Kootenai Park is often lumped in with trails in the area.  It’s well worth a stop, too – the trail isn’t that difficult, but you get to see a nice waterfall and walk across a swinging bridge.  It’s almost too much fun! 1.5 miles out & back

Did I miss any truly terrific hikes in the Cabinet Mountains?  Let me know in the comments!

This Week’s Featured Product!

For even more hikes in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, check out this book. It also covers the surrounding areas, many of which are as uncrowded as the Cabinets.