Statistics: 7.7 miles roundtrip, ascent 2814 feet

This hike was to be one of the highlights of our Montana adventure. The fire lookout tower at the top of 8,328′ Garnet Mountain has a 360-degree view of several surrounding mountain ranges and hikers can stay there overnight. We had reserved it for one night! We drove up the Gallatin Canyon on Highway 191 to Storm Castle Road, which was 35 miles from Bozeman and near the western trailhead for Garnet Mountain. If you are closer to Rat Lake (also in Montana) another established trail to Garnet Mountain approaches from the east and takes in Rat Lake, but it is a longer hike. Since check-in time at the lookout was in the later afternoon, we did not need to get onto the trail until after lunch.

Storm Castle Creek

The ascent from Storm Castle Road began by crossing a bridge over Storm Castle Creek, and then immediately winding steadily up and along the side of the mountain.

The climb begins

Apart from the afternoon heat, we enjoyed the walk. A brief stop to take in the view was a welcome break.

Checking out the view on the way up

The higher we ascended, the better the vistas became.

Peaking through the trees to take in the view

Soon we could see Highway 191 as it ran through the Gallatin Canyon.

Gallatin Canyon far below

The trees began to thin out nearer the top, giving us more viewing opportunities.

Nearing the top

Our trail became a jeep track when it joined the trail from Rat Lake. Loose rocks and deep dust made the footing a little tricky at times, but when we finally caught a glimpse of the lookout we were spurred on.

Lookout sighted (center top)

We soon arrived!

The end is near!

Home sweet home!

Garnet Mountain Lookout Tower

A few steps from the tower was the outhouse, which was placed so that it had full mountain views through the door (if open during use, which I highly recommend!).

The outhouse

As evening approached, the deep golden colors of the landscape intensified.

View from the lookout tower

And then the sunset…


And sunrise…


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