Illinois Peak

Missoula, Montana

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1 Review
5 out of 5
A day hike or overnighter through spectacular—and seldom seen—mountain scenery along the Bitterroot Divide. Perhaps because the higher portions of the Bitterroot Mountains north of Lolo Pass aren’t visible from a major highway, they remain relatively unknown. On a map they are easily overlooked and underrated. None of the peaks exceeds 8,000 feet, but because they are among the westernmost of Montana’s mountain ranges, the Bitterroots receive an abundance of rain and snow. The result is an abundance of alpine scenery at lower elevations than in most mountain ranges. Many ridgeline trails are dry and parched, but this hike goes through a lush, green landscape. At 7,690 feet, Illinois Peak is one of the highest peaks in the northern Bitterroots.

Illinois Peak Professional Review and Guide

"A day hike or overnighter through spectacular—and seldom seen—mountain scenery along the Bitterroot Divide. Perhaps because the higher portions of the Bitterroot Mountains north of Lolo Pass aren’t visible from a major highway, they remain relatively unknown. On a map they are easily overlooked and underrated. None of the peaks exceeds 8,000 feet, but because they are among the westernmost of Montana’s mountain ranges, the Bitterroots receive an abundance of rain and snow.

The result is an abundance of alpine scenery at lower elevations than in most mountain ranges. Many ridgeline trails are dry and parched, but this hike goes through a lush, green landscape. At 7,690 feet, Illinois Peak is one of the highest peaks in the northern Bitterroots."

Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Missoula
Distance: 10
Trail Type: Out-and-back
Skill Level: Moderate
Duration: 1
Season: July through September
Local Contacts: Lolo National Forest
Local Maps: USGS Illinois Peak and Hoodoo

Illinois Peak Reviews

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9/2/2009
For a day hike: make base camp at Missoula Lake, just 1 mile from the trail head at Cascade Pass. You can drive to the trail head, or there is a trail from the campground. Wonderfully easy hike. If you are going late in the year, bring a little container to carry any huckleberries you might pick (and not eat!) The trail to the lake peels off to the right at the two-mile mark and looks like it goes the wrong way. The sign is old and easy to miss. (I posted a photo of it here ) So when you see the cairn at the intersection, it's time to go to the right. Be very careful on the initial descent; it's a little dicey. Fishing was phenominal!!! The weather was threatening, so I only fished each lake for 15 minutes. I caught three in the upper lake and four in the lower lake. They rapidly took my Renegade. When I threw in a worm on a bobber, they even tried to take the bobber! Got to watch a cow moose take a leisurely swim in the lower lake and the USFS guy told me he watched a bear swim the upper lake the day before. There are a couple of good campsites at each lake. The book says there is water at the Missoula Lake campground, but I found none, unless you want to haul it from the lake 1/4 mile away. Earlier in the year you could pull water from the creek. There is a vault toilet. This campground is remarkably well kept; I thanked the Ranger for that. Bring some salt for the deer that will come into your camp begging.
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Jun 2018