West Fork Butte Lookout

Area Status: Open
This area is Open

West Fork Butte Cabin

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.

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.

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.

Kitchen of West Fork Butte Lookout Cabin Sleeping Area of West Fork Butte Lookout Cabin Propane shed and West Fork Butte Lookout Kitchen View of the West For Butte Lookout at Sunset View from the door of the West Fork Butte Lookout

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Reservations Required through Recreation.gov
Missoula Ranger District 406-329-3814
Operational Hours: Check-in is at 3:00 p.m. and check-out is at 12:00 p.m.
Fees $30.00 per night. Visit recreation.gov to make reservations for this recreation area.
Open Season: January 1st - December 31st
Usage: Light
Restrictions: No smoking, candles or pets are allowed in the lookout. From April 1 to December 1, all food and attractants must be secured from bears and other wildlife. All garbage, food and personal belongings must be packed out. Cleaning supplies, kitchen utensils, cookware and other amenities may be available, but are not always guaranteed; call for availability, (406) 329-3814).
Closest Towns: Lolo, Montana
Water: No drinking water available
Restroom: Vault Toilet
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center: Missoula Ranger District, 406-329-3814

General Information


From Lolo, Montana drive 17 miles west on U.S. Highway 12. Turn left (south) onto West Fork Butte Road # 37 (near the Earl Tennant Campground). Follow Forest Road #37 approximately 6.9 miles to the second junction. Take a sharp turn to the left (north). Look for the West Fork Butte Lookout road sign and gate. Follow the road to the lookout. Winter Access: The gate at the beginning of Forest Road #37 is closed during the winter and early spring to provide skiing and snowmobiling opportunities.

General Notes:

The cabin is equipped with a propane cooking stove, a wood stove, 4 metal bunk beds, broom/dust pan, dishes, utensils, pots, pans, and chairs. Bring your own bed linens/sleeping bag. We recommend that you bring your own lantern, lantern propane, matches/lighter, and cleaning supplies such as paper towels and cleaning spray. Please remember to clean the lookout when you leave. A lighter is useful to thaw the combination lock if frozen in winter. Firewood can be limited, so please conserve wood or bring your own.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Camping & Cabins

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Cabin Rentals

The West Fork Butte Lookout rental cabin is a great place to get away from it all and unwind. The lookout is on the ground (not elevated) and offers views of the Lolo Creek drainage, Lolo Peak, and the Bitterroot mountains.
Difficulty Level: Easy


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  Elevation : 
6157 feet