Montana Trails

America's Best Huts: Garnet Mountain Fire Lookout

Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana

The top-of-the-world views that once made this lookout ideal for wildland fire spotters—unobstructed vantages north down the Gallatin River Valley, east to Hyalite Ridge, south to the Gallatin Range, and west to the Spanish Peaks—make it just as great for hikers. In October, scan for a different kind of blaze from the wrap-around porch: yellow patches of larch and aspen. It’s a straightforward, 3.5-mile hike via the Garnet Mountain National Recreation Trail to the two-story tower (with winter closures, it can be up to 12 miles via Storm Castle and Rat Lake Roads). Claim one of four beds, then hit the trail: The Garnet Mountain Trail continues south to a faint user path to the twin Pioneer Lakes.

Trailhead Storm Castle Peak Season Year-round (snowshoe or ski in winter) Amenities Bunks with mattresses; wood-burning stove; two-burner stove (BYO propane) Reservation $30/night Contact