0 for Februrary.
February 2019 may go down as one of the coldest Februaries on record for many locations in Montana. There were dang few days when the weather was nice enough for me to want to get out and enjoy a blog-worthy adventure – and none of those were days when I could get away. Hopefully, March will be better. In the meantime, let me tell you about a couple nice hikes in the Highwood Mountains that you might want to put on the list for next summer.

Like most of the island ranges found in central Montana, the Highwoods owe their existence to ancient volcanic activity. Although some of the mountains resemble volcanic cones, they are not. Instead they are simply the eroded remains of cones and lava that erupted about 50 million years ago. Volcanoes or not, mountains like the Highwoods add a great deal of interest to the landscape in this part of the state. Like many who have driven the highways in the Great Falls area, I’ve admired the Highwoods from a distance for decades. Finally, on a gorgeous first day of summer in June of 2014, a friend (Tim) and I ventured into the heart of the Highwoods and climbed the highest peak in the range – Highwood Baldy.

Above: View of the Highwoods from the Great Falls Air Port.

Hidden treasure. (6/21/14)
Tim and I set off from Helena, drove 132 miles to Thain Creek Campground, set up camp, then made the short drive to the trailhead near Deer Creek where we started our hike (see map in photo tour). We followed the trail along the southeast side of Deer Creek for a couple miles before crossing the drainage and hiking up to the ridge, which we followed for the last steep mile and a half to the summit. All total the hike was 3.5 miles with 3,300 feet of gain (one-way). Communication structures spoiled the feel of the summit a bit, but the views more than made up for it. We could see the Sweet Grass Hills and Bear Paws to the north (also remnants of ancient volcanic activity), and our view of Square Butte to the east was especially awesome. Another highlight was something Tim found napping in the tall grass on the way up – Check the photo tour to see what it was. (Photo Tour)

Two for the price of one.
Our friend Mark (also from Helena) joined us at the campsite that afternoon. The next day the three of us walked the Windy Mountain Loop – a pleasant 7.1-mile hike on a nice trail maintained by the Charlie Russell Back Country Horsemen of Great Falls. After the hike we stopped at the Harvest Moon Brewery in Belt to sample a couple beers and chat with the brew-master (Stan), before heading back to Helena.

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