What Goes Up Must Come Down

By Beacon Staff

The Danny On Memorial Trail attracts more hikers than any other trail in Flathead National Forest—around 14,000 each summer. Its flower-filled slopes blossom with glacier lilies in June, tall white beargrass stalks in July, and huckleberries in August. But this summer, the hiking trail converts into more of a backcountry experience.

In past seasons, Big Mountain’s chairlift aided hikers with a ride up or a ride down, but not this summer. With Whitefish Mountain Resort replacing the Glacier Chaser, access to the 6,871-foot summit is only via foot.

“The trail needs a little more clearing this year,” said Becky Smith-Powell of Flathead National Forest. “But it’s open, and the wildflowers and hucks will still be there. People who hike up just need to hike down.”

For the average hiker, the Danny On Trail requires at least two hours to trek the four miles up 2,400 feet in elevation. It’s a trail to spot both grizzly and black bears, hear the song of olive-sided flycatchers, and catch the flashy western tanager’s yellow and red. Plus, the panoramic views of Glacier National Park are unbeatable. Expect the knee-pounder hike back down to last about 90 minutes.

In previous summers, hikers relied on the Summit House for a resupply on water and snacks as well as visits to restrooms and the Environmental Education. With the chairlift not running, the Summit House will be closed, thus altering the nature of the hike to more of a backcountry experience. Plan to carry enough supplies—water, snacks, sunscreen, and rain gear.

As Flathead Valley’s most popular path, the Danny On usually is not a trail for seclusion. But this summer, it just may see fewer hikers.