Climbing to the highest point in the Whitefish Range isn’t that hard. Except that it requires two ascents.
Nasukoin Mountain presides above the Whitefish peaks just about dead center. Its 8,086 feet catapult hikers high enough to see Glacier National Park from its northern point to its southern tip and most of Flathead National Forest.
From the trailhead, switchbacks crank 1,744 feet first up to the summit of Lake Mountain. Towards the top, the trail tiptoes along a knife-edge with eagle eye views of Chain Lakes. Atop Lake Mountain, Nasukoin appears a long way off with a 600-foot elevation loss in between. “You think, ‘I’m going to go all the way down there and then back up?!’” says hiker Alan Gregory.
At Lake Mountain, haul out the routefinding skills, for the trail fizzles. “Everybody gets fooled at the top of Lake Mountain,” laughs Gregory. “The trail appears to follow the ridge down its north side. But it peters out.” Retreat a few steps south of the summit and peek over the ridge’s east wall to spot the trail switchbacking down a steep hillside to a broad rounded ridge heading northeast toward Nasukoin. Along this rolling, sometimes cairned ridge splattered with alpine larch, the trail fades in meadows, but it picks up again at the entry to the low saddle leading to the summit.
Swing across the saddle and begin to gain back some of the lost elevation. In a single long switchback climbing nearly 900 feet, the trail crests Nasukoin’s summit. Here, the weary flop on the rusty bedsprings left from an old lookout that used to haunt the east summit. Those still energized survey the splendid panorama. “On a crystal blue sky day, it’s gorgeous,” says Gregory. “It’s a grunt to get there, but it’s worth it.”
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