Making a list?
Over the past several weeks I’ve enjoyed daily hikes with my dog on the trail system that borders the southern edge of Helena, and even managed to take my first snowshoe hike of the season – All pleasant outings, but nothing really blog-worthy. So I am using this post to tell about a hike to the Patrol Mountain Lookout that my wife (Mardi) and I did a couple years ago. The hike is one of many that I’ve enjoyed in the Augusta-Choteau area 80-130 miles north of Helena (see map at bottom). Although most of them have been off-trail and have included “sketchy” parts, the Patrol Mountain hike features a great trail all the way to the summit. The bad news is the last part of the hike is VERY steep, gaining 2,500 feet over the last two miles. All total, the hike is about 10 miles (round-trip) with 2,700 feet of elevation gain. As you start planning adventures for next summer, definitely consider adding this one to the list. (Photo Tour)

Thinking like “older children.”
I learned of the hike by reading Discover the Rocky Mountain Front by Tom Kotynski of Great Falls – Patrol Mountain is one of 32 adventures featured in the book. To get there, we made the 80-mile drive from Helena to Augusta, and then followed the Benchmark Road for 30 miles to the trailhead. In his description Tom suggests that “this is a great hike for older children who will look forward to an objective at the end – a real fire lookout with a ranger who will show them how fires are spotted and handled.” True! Arriving at the lookout and getting to visit with Sam (Samsara) Chapman Duffey were definitely highlights for Mardi and I. Sam, who has been stationed at the lookout for 20 straight summers (as of 2017), was a gracious host, happy to have company, and willing to share insights gained from her many summers alone on the summit. For our dog (Missy) the highlight was the well-timed crossing of Straight Creek on the way down.

Below: This map marks hikes that have been featured on so far – Select full screen to expand, zoom in for more detail, or click on a marker for a link to the post.