Birding · Fall Colors · Spring · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
This out-and-back route remains entirely above 5500 feet and features views of the St. Marie River Valley and the Marble Creek - St. Joe Drainage. Wildflowers make it especially colorful in the spring while huckleberries are abundant in late summer.
This route starts at Freezeout Saddle on Forest Service Road #301. Most cars can make it to the trailhead, but be careful as the road gets rough during the last mile or two.
The Marble Divide Trail #275 begins on the slopes of Mark's Butte with open views of the valley 3000 feet below. It then enters the forest and descends to a small saddle before making the 700 foot climb up to the summit of Grandmother Mountain. Be sure to keep right at the intersection with the Gold Fork Trail and then keep left at the intersection with the Marble Creek Trail. At this point, the slope steepens and the trail emerges into a beautiful alpine meadow. Rocky cliffs provide clear views over Clarkia and the St. Maries River on the left. On the right, you'll find the headwaters of Marble Creek with the bald Lookout Mountain rising up behind. A rock outcropping 3/4 of the way up the climb makes for a great spot to take a rest. Once at the top of the ridge, a short 0.2 mile spur leads through an old-growth forest of Mountain Hemlock to the summit of Grandmother Mountain. On a clear day, the views over Marble Creek and the St. Joe River drainage are nothing short of spectacular. Turning back from here will provide you with a 5 mile run.
For a longer 8-mile option, continue right on the Marble Divide Trail #275 as the trail descends into a shallow saddle, cloaked in a mix of old growth and newer recovered forest. The trail then makes one more climb up to the summit of Grandfather Mountain. The views on Grandfather Mountain aren't quite as open and great as they are on Grandmother, but the extra distance isn't very difficult and is still worth the trip.
There is a backcountry campsite and a spring just past the spur to the summit of Grandmother Mountain to make this an overnight option.