The 35-mile stretch of sometimes jarring, sometimes dirt road that leads from Columbia Falls and tracks along the western edge of Glacier National Park should be driven with respect, but visitors who brave the journey to this remote corner of the park will not regret it.
Named for the North Fork of the Flathead River that borders the park, this is one of the least crowded and most remote sections of Glacier, and must be accessed by private vehicle.
Those who make the trek are rewarded with a living laboratory of fire ecology in recently burned areas, as well as peak-studded views of Bowman and Kintla lakes, a homesteading site, and the opportunity to see and hear rarefied wildlife like wolves.
A series of wildfires over the decades have etched the mountain-scape with a mix of forest growth, each drawing a unique complement of species, including rare bird species, like the Northern Three Toed and Black-backed woodpeckers.
Visitors accustomed to modern comforts should be warned that few services exist up the North Fork, and cell phones stop chirping as the pavement turns to wash-boarded dirt.
Self-reliant visitors will appreciate the dearth of amenities, as well as the thin crowds.
Allow a full day to drive to and from Kintla and Bowman Lakes, and be sure to kick around the historic homesteading outpost of Polebridge, where a vibrant mercantile, bakery and saloon are open for business.