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As someone spending the summer in Whitefish, Montana, I’m having a great time trying out the various hiking trails in the area with my son, Parks, who is 11 months old. One of our new shared favorites is Lion Mountain Trail.
I’ve hiked Lion Mountain Trail a few times before, but this was the first time I’d done it with my baby. Hiking with a baby makes me see things from a different perspective–mostly that of safety. Especially after our bear encounter on a hiking trail around Bowman Lake two weeks ago.
Whether you’re thinking about hiking Lion Mountain Train with a baby or without, keep reading! This review can help you decide if it’s right for you.
- Lion Mountain Trail Overview
- Lion Mountain Trail Terrain
- Lion Mountain Trail Pros and Cons
Lion Mountain Trail Overview
Lion Mountain Trail is located on the outskirts of Whitefish, just about 2 miles from downtown. It’s part of the Whitefish Trail System.
It’s a trail that has about 350 feet of elevation gain, which is manageable for hikers of almost all fitness levels and abilities as long as you’re not in a hurry. If you’re building up your endurance, plan to take a few breaks and enjoy the surrounding forest.
The trail’s popularity is evident by the number of vehicles in the parking lot. The presence of two vans from the Boys and Girls Club of Glacier and the buzz of an educational hike provided a comforting ambiance that assured me of a safe and enjoyable solo hike with my baby.
Despite the trail’s popularity, I’ve never had trouble finding a parking spot since I like to hike in the morning. As the day goes on, it does become a little more difficult. Most recently, by the time I got back to the parking lot around 10 a.m., cars were circling and waiting for me to pull out of my spot.
Lion Mountain Trail Terrain
The trail beckoned with promises of good exercise and stunning views at its halfway point, which is Skyles Overlook.
Early on, a fork in the path offered a choice: the Whitefish Trail or the Family Loop. Parks and I knew we wanted the full hiking experience, so I opted for the path leading to Skyles Overlook.
Navigating through the wilderness, another fork presented itself. I had the option of taking the trail toward Lion Mountain Loop Road and Beaver Lakes or continuing along Lion Mountain Trail toward the overlook. We had chosen this trail for scenic rewards so we chose the Skyles Overlook path.
The trail’s terrain was perfect for us. I appreciated that while there are numerous inclines, they aren’t overly steep or long. They’re just enough to get your heart pumping and then you can enjoy a flat path while you get your breath back.
Over the course of the approximately 3-mile loop, the total elevation gain was about 350 feet, according to AllTrails.
The gradual incline provided a manageable challenge, making it suitable for hikers of all fitness levels and abilities. This gentle ascent allowed me to fully immerse myself in the natural beauty of the surroundings, pausing whenever I pleased to admire the flora and fauna along the way and enjoy deep breaths of fresh pine.
Lion Mountain Trail Pros and Cons
As with any hiking trail, there are both pros and cons to note. In my own personal opinion, the negatives are barely worth mentioning, but for the sake of a review, I’ll share my thoughts.
On the positive side, Lion Mountain Trail offers a captivating journey through the woods. The availability of a vault toilet at the trailhead is a nice convenience. The gradual elevation gain adds a touch of excitement without being overwhelming, making it an ideal trail for individuals with varying hiking experiences.
Of course, the highlight of the hike is Skyles Overlook. This breathtaking vantage point rewards hikers with a bench on which to enjoy views of a tranquil lake surrounded by charming cabins nestled amidst the mountains. The poignant tribute of dog collars nailed to a post at the overlook serves as a touching reminder of the canine companions that have shared in the experience.
On the flip side, hikers may find themselves unsettled by the number of dogs that roam off-leash. While all of the dogs I’ve encountered on the trail were well-behaved, not everyone appreciates unleashed dog encounters. Further, sharing the trail with mountain bikers can be startling when they come up behind you quickly without warning. Most mountain bikers are considerate and approach slowly with warning, but that can’t be said for all of them.
When it comes to the hiking trails in the Whitefish Trail System, Lion Mountain Trail is one of the most popular, and for good reason. Its serene beauty, gradual elevation gain, length, and rewarding views from Skyles Overlook make it a perfect journey for hikers of all skill levels.
As I reflect on my experiences, the pros undoubtedly outweigh the cons, and I find myself coming back to this trail over and over again for all the reasons previously mentioned.
If you’re in search of a rejuvenating hike through the woods, punctuated by moments of awe at its picturesque overlook, Lion Mountain Trail should be added to your hiking itinerary if you’re visiting Whitefish, Montana.
It’s short and easy enough to become a perfect way to get a little exercise in the morning before exploring the rest of what Northwest Montana has to offer.