We hiked Demer’s Ridge to Glacier View Mountain on my birthday. Hoping for a scenic summit view to celebrate, I feared I may be out of luck with some persistent, late-June snow still lingering at higher elevations. However, with its entirely sun-exposed ascent from the southeast, Demer’s Ridge provided an opportunity for some stunning views of Glacier National Park on a completely clear trail.
Demer’s Ridge Trail (#266) begins just off North Fork Road, near the junction with Camas Road. Coming from the South (Columbia Falls), there’s a small pull-off area for parking on the right side of North Fork, just beyond this junction. The trailhead is just across the street from the parking area, marked by a small wooden signpost.
The trail is short and steep, climbing nearly all 2,760 feet in the first 2.5 miles en route to the summit of Glacier View Mountain (6,097’). The first half of the trail winds to the top of a ridge in a series of sharp, narrow switchbacks. From the moment we stepped foot on the trail, we were enveloped by sweeping views of the North Fork Flathead River and mountains of Glacier National Park.
For the duration of the ascent, we found ourselves peeking through the charred remains of the once-forested hillside, which was part of more than 70,000 acres that burned in the area’s 2001 Moose Fire. While the ridge is now nearly completely devoid of trees, ground-hugging vegetation and colorful wildflowers saturate the landscape.
We even ran into a surprisingly chummy dusky grouse. As we heard some rustling in the bushes, my mind went straight to grizzly bear (completely unreasonable if you’d seen the size of the modest shrub). Luckily, out popped the curious bird, who was more than happy to pose for a few pictures and investigate us inquisitively as we continued up the trail.
The upper portions of the trail are similarly steep, though the switchbacks gradually disappear as the path takes a more direct climb to the top. While our calves were burning as we neared the top of the ridge, Sanchez was continually running out the slack on her 20-foot lead. As we neared what we thought was the top, we discovered there are a couple of ‘false summits’ before reaching Glacier View Mountain’s highpoint, which is conclusively marked by a couple of unmistakable cairns. From here, the views looking out over the western boundary of Glacier NP are just stunning.
After enjoying a lunch in the welcome breeze that had picked up near the top, we headed back down the ridge, fully satisfied with what the short hike had to offer.
Total distance: 5.0 miles
Elevation gain: 2,760 feet
(1) Carry more water than you think you’ll need, especially if you’re hiking in the summer months. There is not a speck of shade the entire hike, and the direct sun can be brutally intense. It was 82F the day we hiked, and we drank more water than we typically do on a hike that’s twice as long. If you’re hiking with a dog, make sure you also have enough water for your fuzzy friend. Sanchez drank about three times as much as she usually does on the trail. Also, be sure to pay close attention to how well your dog is handling the heat overall. While Sanchez did fine, we could tell she needed a few more breaks than she would have on a shaded, forested trail. If a hot, sunny day is in the forecast, start early, wear a hat, and carry twice as much water as you think you’ll need.
(2) Hiking poles are super helpful for the descent. The ridge is steep and there is some fairly slick, loose scree in spots.