In September we drove south along Flathead Lake looking for a back road Crystal had heard about. When we arrived at the start of the location there was a Tribal Land Special Permit sign. This meant that we needed to turn around and go even further south to the local Polson Walmart to pick up our permits. The permits are inexpensive and need renewed every March.
Alright… where were we…
The route starts to the east of the lake and gradually makes the ascent. There are plenty of Flathead Lake photo ops along the first stretch of the road. The road follows along the ridgeline and at a clearing you are able to view the Swan Valley to the east.
There are plenty of roads and no cell service, so be sure to have your map ready!
During our recent stay at Downing Mountain Lodge, we stopped into the local Forest Service office in Hamilton. They had a great free handout of the local back roads in the area. We highly recommend you pick one up.
After looking at the map we decided we wanted to return to a place that both of us had been to before, Lake Como, except this time we weren’t going for the water activities. There is quite a bit of forest service roads in that area and we were hoping to catch some spectacular views of the lake.
The water was low at the lake when we visited this fall, so we took the Landcruiser down the boat launch and made our way through the rocky terrain to the shore. I always forget just how beautiful the mountains are in this part of the state. We discussed how we should bring the boat with us on our next trip to the Bitterroot and travel to the other end of the lake to view the waterfall.
We decided to travel further up the Lake Como road which made an ascent so we were overlooking the lake, the mix of fir and pine trees made it a beautiful ride, but no clear photo op of the lake. We made a turn at a side road and located two great rustic camping spots. We added yet another place to the bucket list, and hope to return once we get a roof top tent.
Interested in staying in this area? Lake Como has three developed campgrounds:
The five days that we spent at the Downing Mountain Lodge, we kept finding ourselves staring at the view… shaking our heads and commenting on how damn beautiful it is.The lodge is located 2,000 feet above the Bitterroot Valley. If it weren’t for the twinkling lights of Hamilton, MT from the valley below, you would think you are in the middle of nowhere; not 20 minutes from town.
The Landcruiser crawled up the 15 switchbacks to the unique 16 sided log chalet. We took Lola down the driveway leading to the Lodge’s covered entrance to unload. However, they do have a large parking lot above, perfect for a crowd to park their off road rigs after a day of hitting the trails.
Walking into the lodge, the central rock fireplace commands to be noticed. From it’s size to log details, it gives the panoramic views a run for their money. We found the fireplace became the gravitating point for our time at the lodge.
Something about the crackle of a wood fire and the radiating warmth…
The lodge can sleep 14 adult guests, has three bedrooms, two newly remodeled bathrooms and a full commercial kitchen. In a previous life, the lodge was a unique steak house in the Bitterroot Valley and the new owner has kept the amenity of being able to serve a large group in the commercial kitchen. Imagine your party coming back from off roading the Bitterroot to enjoy a meal at the large dining table (think Thanksgiving family large) and soaking up the views.
The master bedroom faces east and catches the sunrise. One morning, we rose early and hopped into the front lawn hot tub (yes, there is two hot tubs- a wood stove sauna!) where we caught the sunrise over the Sapphire Mountains.
The front lawn has a large deck that overlooks the valley and has a wood fire barbeque if your group wants to really show off their culinary skills. We, however, choose to kick back and Andy grabbed the house guitar. Not a bad way to watch the sun set over the valley.
After watching Hamilton’s lights twinkle up from the valley floor for a bit, we grabbed our drinks and hit the foosball table. Andy won the match and he was sure to use the lodges WIFI to let folks know about it (insert rolling of eyes here).
There is a TV in the lodge, but we didn’t feel the need to use it. I do wish that one of us knew how to play the piano though, as that is one thing I did feel the need to use… not well may I add…
In the summer the lodge boosts amazing wildflowers, late summer brings huckleberries and like we mentioned above, the winter brings backcountry skiing for the area. Downing Mountain’s owner offers guided skiing trips during the winter and lake/river excursions in the summer.
Downing Mountain Lodge is the perfect place for a crew to gather after a day of hitting the trails. In fact, we are planning a trip to the Magruder Corridor next summer and I can’t think of a better place to start off the trip with our friends.
Video of our time at Downing Mountain Lodge will be up on Thursday, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel so you never miss one!
I laughed when we woke up the morning of this trip.
Just two days before I had posted on our instagram about how everyone else was talking about winter, but we here at North End was holding onto autumn…
There was snow in them dar hills
We travelled east of Kalispell on Hwy 2 towards Libby, MT. Just as we crossed into Lincoln county we turned right onto a logging road.
Autumn was in full force and the larches were beautiful… but the further we peered up Meadow Peak, the more snow we saw.
About half way up we stopped at a switch back that was fully covered in snow and had delicious breakfast hash… We can’t take credit for it however, our friend Jody dished it up.
The rest of the trail was covered in snow and the gate was locked. This meant we had to hike the 1/4 of a mile to the top of Meadow Peak and it’s look out tower.
The winter jaunt, didn’t disappoint
Someone is currently rehabilitating the look out. The inside was boarded up, but the cat walk was still open. We busted out the drone and got our first real footage that will be included in our YouTube video of this trip.
We look forward to revisiting this trail again, preferably when the snow has gone and with clear skies.
She agreed to give the off roading a break and instead make a guest appearance at our families annual hayride.
We know this isn’t a travel piece that you’ve come to expect from us (be sure to keep scrolling to see our other Landcruiser Adventures) but we thought that we would take this post to introduce more about who we are.
The hayride started 7 years ago, it was low key and we all fit on one trailer. It has since grown to a classic country band, two trailers with lots of seating and a lot more of Mom’s famous chili.
Lola led the convoy of our friends and family to the dead end of our road, it should be noted here that it’s our farm’s location that gave name to this whole blog. We are located on the North End of Flathead Lake (the largest fresh water lake west of the Mississippi).
When we are not out exploring in Lola, we are in our boat soaking up the all too short summers here in Montana. Our family farm is on the back waters of the Flathead River that feeds the lake, and we can actually take the boat all the way to our road… Now if we could just convince the other farmers to put in a neighborhood dock!
We will be back at the adventures next week, but wanted to share a video of Lola from this weekend.