Garver Mountain Lookout: Explore Montana's Wild Side

Follow Your Path Sign

Why it's Worth the Drive

Solitude, spectacular views, as-good-as-it-gets stargazing, plentiful wildlife, no cell connection, and a one-of-a-kind night's sleepGARVER MT LOOKOUT MAP

Garver Lookout at a Glance

Region: Kootenai National Forest, Montana 
Distance: 20 miles from Yaak, Montana 
Elevation:  5874 ft 
Terrain: Paved road then well-maintained forest service road; high-clearance recommended
Season: Opens in June; make reservations well in advance.
Info:  Reservations can be made by visiting Recreation.gov

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Know before you Go 

The original lookout, a small cabin built in the ‘20s, still stands on the site. The current two-bed lookout was built in 1963. The tower stands forty feet tall. It’s equipped with the basics—a wood stove, mattresses, a table, and chairs—but there’s no electricity or water. It’s nice, in a rustic way, but this isn’t the Taj Mahal. Your phone won't work here. 

garver lookout

old garver mt lookout

Bring sleeping bags, toilet paper, and an adventurous attitude. If a pit toilet is too low-brow for you then this isn’t your place.

Should you bring kids? Your call. The tower is high enough that having a toddler would be nerve-wracking. Older kids, however, will most likely love the uniqueness of lookout camping. No sleepwalkers allowed.  

The 360-degree view from the lookout is truly spectacular. If the weather cooperates, you're guaranteed a beautiful sunset followed by a night of backcountry star gazing.

There’s a good chance you’ll see moose or deer, and there’s an outside chance you’ll see elk, grizzly, or a lynx. According to the locals, you may also catch a glimpse of Big Foot. Keep your camera handy.

garver mountain outhouse

garver mt view

The trail to the lookout is short (approximately ¼ mile) but steep enough in a few places that schlepping anything heavy (a cooler of food, for instance) is not advised.

 Yaak Sign

As for weather, the Yaak region is sometimes called Montana’s rainforest because the low elevation and high precipitation create a climate known as modified pacific maritime. The take-away here is that the weather in the Yaak, like the people that live there, doesn't always behave. Come prepared for anything.

And speaking of people, the Yaak region is stubbornly and proudly populated by a colorful menagerie of doomsday preppers, off-griders, hermits, and iconoclasts. A quick stop-over at the Dirty Shame Saloon in the town of Yaak is highly recommended, but know what you're getting into--there are shotguns embedded in the counter top and the whisky flows freely. Talk politics at your own risk.

 Compass

THE ROUTE

From Troy, Montana, follow Highway 2 west for 9.5 miles to the intersection with Yaak Highway 508. Follow Yaak Highway 508 north for 30 miles to the town of Yaak. Continue on Highway 92. Turn left onto 276 and follow this to road 5857. Follow 5857 to the gate to Garver Mountain. The road continues past the gate for about 3 miles. The parking area and the trail to the tower are both well marked.

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Pro Tips

  • To obtain the lock combination to the gate and to the tower, contact the Three Rivers Ranger District at 406-295-4693, but do it while you still have cell reception.
  • Visitors are allowed to leave up to two vehicles at the trailhead.
  • Leave it better than you found it. Bring your own trash bags, clean up, and pack out your trash.
  • No potable water at the site.
  • Recommended Reading: The Book of Yaak by Rick Bass. 

 



Brian Meier

Brian Meier was born in Colorado and now lives with his family in Spokane, Washington. He is the author of the book, Awaken the Bear, and the founder of the website, GetLost.com. If you want to get a hold of him, you can use the link below to send him an email, which he promises to read right away, unless he is fishing.
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