With tourist numbers swelling in Glacier National Park during the National Park Service’s centennial celebration, many hikers are looking for ways to discover the park off the beaten path. Tucked along Glacier’s southern border near Essex, this uncrowded trail to the staffed lookout at the summit of Scalplock Mountain, elevation 6,919 feet, delivers visitors to unique views from an uncommon vantage point.
Looking northward from the summit on a clear day, hikers can see Harrison Glacier on Mount Jackson’s southern face and the striking, jagged Mount Saint Nicolas. Up Park Creek Valley to the east, Salvage Mountain, Church Butte, and Two Medicine Pass are visible. The Great Bear Wilderness abuts U.S. Highway 2 and the Middle Fork Flathead River to the south.
With 3,000 feet of elevation gain over 4.7 miles, the Scalplock Lookout trail is consistently steep, but the bushes lining the path are thick with thimbleberries and huckleberries, making the climb delicious. Tree coverage prevents 360-degree views during the majority of the hike, but before the final push, the path cuts along an open ridge that provides views of Stanton Glacier, which sits on the backside of Great Northern Mountain.
The trailhead is at the Walton Ranger Station. There’s no gate fee to enter the parking lot, and hikers can pack a meal to enjoy at the many picnic tables overlooking the Middle Fork by the trailhead.