The front of what?
When folks in Montana talk about “The Front”, they are usually referring to the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains and adjacent prairie between Roger’s Pass and Marias Pass – best viewed in the morning light as you drive from Augusta or Fairfield northward to the Browning area. Nowhere else in the state is the transition from mountains to prairie so abrupt and so extensive, running north-south for over 50 miles. I suspect the name “front” originated because the front (or beginning) of the mountains along this stretch is both obvious and impressive to travelers approaching the Rockies from the east.
Not for everyone.
Over the past five years I’ve spent many enjoyable days hiking and peakbagging on The Front, and I’ve even done a couple short backpacking trips there as well. The area just has a different feel to it – it seems more wild, rugged, and remote than other places. There are some great trails on The Front, but to experience the good stuff, you often have to venture off-trail and ascend steep, sometimes scree-covered slopes. Crown Mountain, 20 miles west of Augusta, is a perfect example. The trip to it’s summit begins innocently enough with a 3.5-mile walk along a pleasant trail (#270) to a pass at the base of the mountain. From there the level of difficulty increases dramatically. To find out how to approach the summit, take a look at the two options I’ve detailed in the photo tour. Both are challenging, but the reward is a walk along the edge of a unique summit with views of the prairie to the east and the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex to the west.
Above: A portion of The Rocky Mountain Front viewed from the highway a couple miles south of Augusta.
I only enjoy hiking when I’m with someone, or alone.
This past Tuesday (7/2/19) a couple friends (Jerry, Tyler) and I dove over to climb Crown Mountain. We enjoyed the 3.5-mile hike to the pass, but once we started working our way up through the steep scree, things went south. Jerry received the upsetting news that one of our friends back in Helena had experienced a significant heart attack, so we turned back and headed home. As it turns out, the friend is going to be okay. Fortunately the friend had decided not to join us on this hike – If he had, the outcome would not have been so good.
Four days later . . . alone.
I decided to drive back to The Front and finish the climb on Saturday – by myself this time, thinking I might climb the unnamed peak (8446) just south of Crown Mountain as well. It ended up being a great day. I left Helena at 5:10 am, thoroughly enjoyed climbing both peaks, and got home at 4:10 pm, just as big thunderstorms were moving through the northern Rockies. For much more about my adventure, take a look at the Photo Tour – and be sure to read the captions. To learn about eight other hikes I’ve done on The Front, check out the links below.
- Photo Tour of two trips to Crown Mountain.
Photos, maps, etc. – Be sure to read the captions.
- Map of the area that includes Crown Mountain.
Zoom in or out, scroll, drag, etc.
- Ear Mountain west of Choteau.
My favorite place on the Front.
- Castle Reef via Wagner Basin.
Another great hike on the Front.
- Steamboat Ridge.
A challenging one-night backpacking adventure.
- Scapegoat Mountain.
My best adventure on the Front – 2 nights alone in the Bob.
- Hike to the Patrol Mountain Lookout.
Trail all the way to the top!
- Hike to Sawtooth Ridge.
- Devil’s Glen.
A canyon within a canyon.
- Muddy Creek Falls.
Might be the easiest hike on the Front – Great destination!
- Discover the Rocky Mountain Front.
A book by Tom Kotynski – Describes 32 hikes on the Front.
- More about the Rocky Mountain Front.
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.
Would you recommend the 3.5 mile hike to the pass as a stand alone hike for beginners and 12 year olds?
Yes, I would but be sure to take bear spray and make some noise.