West Fork Butte Lookout is an ideal place for guests to experience the mountains south of Missoula from a unique vantage point. The facility provides near-360-degree views of the surrounding area. It is equipped with basic supplies and provides guests a base camp location from which to explore the area.
Access by vehicle is available for a relatively short time during the summer months and is variable during the spring and fall. If the gate at the bottom of Forest Road 37 is closed, guests may have to hike, ski or snowmobile roughly 7.5 miles to the facility. Please call the Missoula Ranger District to check gate status. Guests are responsible for their own travel arrangements and safety, and must bring several of their own amenities.
Hiking trails are available in the area. Visitors often bring cross-country skis or snowshoes for wintertime fun. Snowmobiles are often used to reach the lookout in the winter, and there is a system of groomed trails to explore nearby.
Fishing is available in Lolo Creek.
The lookout can sleep up to four people and is equipped with bunk beds and mattress pads. The lookout also has a table and chairs, a propane cook stove and lantern, as well as a wood stove for heat. Cleaning supplies, kitchen utensils, cookware and other amenities may be available, but are not always guaranteed; call for availability, (406) 329-3814. A vault toilet is provided.
Guests should bring their own water for drinking, cooking and cleaning purposes. Bedding and towels, propane fuel canisters, flashlights, matches, lighters, garbage bags, toilet paper and cleaning supplies are not supplied at the facility. Guests are responsible for cleaning the lookout prior to departure.
The 14-by-14′ lookout is situated on a rocky knob with spectacular views of the surrounding area, including Lolo Peak, the Bitterroot Mountains and the Lolo Creek drainage. The lookout is close to the Montana-Idaho border and Lolo Pass.
The surrounding forest is comprised primarily of lodgepole pine and larch. The area is home to elk, moose, deer and black bears.From Missoula, travel south on Highway 93 to Lolo. Turn onto Highway 12 and continue west for 17 miles, following Lolo Creek to Forest Road 37. Turn left onto Road 37, and cross the concrete bridge over Lolo Creek. . There are two gates along the route to the lookout. The first is located near the beginning of Forest Road 37 not far from the concrete bridge over Lolo Creek. This gate is open during the summer months, closed in the winter and variable during the spring and fall. The second gate is located roughly 7 miles from the intersection of Forest Road 37 and Highway 12. This gate is always closed and has a lock with the same combination as the lookout. After crossing the concrete bridge over Lolo Creek, continue past the old buildings. The road turns sharply to the left and begins to climb out of the drainage bottom. The first gate is located just after the road turns to the left. Follow Forest Road 37 for approximately 7 miles to the second intersection. Turn a sharp left, open the locked gate using the combination provided by the Missoula Ranger Station and travel through . Close the gate behind you and follow the road a half mile to the lookout.
During the winter and early spring months the gate near the beginning of Forest Road 37 is closed and locked to provide skiing and snowmobiling opportunities and to protect roadbed surfaces during spring break-up conditions. When the gate is locked, visitors can park at the parking area below the gate, and follow the route via snowmobile, skis or foot 7.5 miles to the lookout. Maps are available online or for purchase by calling the Missoula Ranger District.406-329-3814N