Grant Ridge was recommended to us by our AirBnb host. If not for her recommendation, we probably never would have heard of this trail as there was very little information out there regarding the hike.
Located in the northern half of the Flathead Range, Grant Ridge is just south of Great Northern Mountain and about 10 miles south of Ousel Peak. Having loved our hike up Ousel the week prior, we were excited to heed our host’s suggestion and visit another part of this ridgeline.
The trailhead for Grant Ridge is just off Highway 2, and is accessed from the same parking lot as the Stanton Lake Trailhead (clearly signed off the highway). Grant Ridge Trail #339 is a 9.2-mile loop that joins up with the Stanton Lake Trail #146 just over a mile from the trailhead. Thus, the route can be hiked in either direction (146 > 339, counterclockwise; 339 > 146, clockwise). We opted to begin on trail #339, hiking in a clockwise direction and ultimately joining the last portion of the #146 trail near Stanton Lake.
For the first 0.4 miles, a track runs alongside Highway 2 leading to the official #339 trailhead. Although not ideal, there is a visible path through a grassy area that’s well off the shoulder of the busy thoroughfare. A small wooden sign for Grant Ridge denotes the trail’s official start. The trail begins rising gently through the forest, continuing a gradual ascent and remaining below the treeline for the next 4 miles. We had just begun to wonder if the trail would ever open up when we suddenly popped out onto the open ridge.
After enjoying the views looking back toward Glacier’s Lewis Range, we found the perfect spot for lunch – a small clearing just off the trail that was speckled with glacier lilies. Moreover, the quiet, little nook presented us with a lovely view out to the sharp summit of Mount Saint Nicholas.
We continued around the ridge for about 1.5 miles, under the constant watch of neighboring Mt. Grant and Great Northern Mountain. After wrapping around the northwestern perimeter of the ridge – and getting a peek-a-boo look down at Stanton Lake – the trail dipped back down into the forest.
The second half of the trail proved to be much more eventful than the first. During the last two or three miles, the vegetation became incredibly dense, completely overtaking the trail in places. The hike turned into a bit of a bushwhack as we spent the last couple miles endeavoring to not smack each other in the face with the intruding overgrowth.
After our massive bushwhack, and much to our surprise, the trail came to an abrupt halt at Stanton Creek. We’d heard the sound of rushing water grow increasingly closer, and just assumed we were nearing the area of the lake. However, after nearly 10 miles and 5 hours of hiking, we were somewhat startled to be met with a raging creek. Knowing the only thing to do was forge ahead, we readied ourselves for some soaking wet boots and the shocking chill of rushing meltwater. I had to quickly pull off the trail to pee, knowing there was high potential for wetting my pants if someone ended up fully submerged in the surging creek. The water was high and fast enough that I was a bit worried about our tentative little swimmer making it across without panicking, so Stephan hauled her safely to the other side. Now soaked up to our mid-thighs, we had to laugh at how the back half of the hike had turned out.
Soon after emerging dripping wet from the stream, we spotted the sign indicating the junction with trail #146. Knowing we were only about a mile from the trailhead, we decided to take a quick detour to the left and instead head toward Stanton Lake.
After about half mile of thick, muddy trail, we spotted a narrow offshoot to the left that seemed to head toward the lake. Indeed, the short side path almost immediately opened up to a small sandy area on the lake’s northwestern shore. We were glad we made the detour, as the lake was absolutely stunning. Jewel-toned waters burst from the lush evergreen forest, and snow-capped Great Northern Mountain towered just beyond. Sanchez enjoyed a quick swim in the sun-kissed water before we finally made our way back to the trailhead.
If you’re looking for a hike in total solitude, Grant Ridge could be a good option. We saw only one other person on that entire length of trail. Conversely, on the final, short stretch of trail #146, we ran across several families, all en route to Stanton Lake (clearly a more moderately trafficked trail). Keep in mind, on the Stanton Lake (western) side of the loop, you may very well have to battle an invasion of undergrowth, and there’s a very real possibility you will end up completely soaked, but the views and solitude may be worth it. If you’re not up for the more untamed half of the trail, you could always choose to hike the Mt. Grant (eastern) side of the loop as an out-and-back. If you don’t mind getting a little wet and are keen to hike the full loop, we’d recommend hiking the loop in a clockwise direction – thus restricting the portion of trail with the greatest potential for soggy gear to the last mile. In the end, we were grateful we made this decision (albeit unknowingly).
Total distance: 11.5 miles
Elevation gain: 3,805 feet