Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
1,770.00 ft (539.50 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
6.40 mi (10.30 km)
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Cha-paa-qn (pronounced "cha-pock-qwin") is a common sight on Missoula’s western horizon. This pyramidal mountain is the tallest in the Ninemile District of Lolo National Forest and has more prominence than nearly any other state peak. And surprisingly, with a drive that takes you more than halfway up to the summit, the hike to bag Cha-paa-qn is relatively short with minimal scrambling towards the end.

Some residents of the state better know this mountain as “Squaw Peak.” This outdated title officially changed in 2004 to better recognize the Salish community of the region.

Three recognized routes lead to the top of Cha-paa-qn (7,996 feet). The route utilizing Reservation Divide Trail from Edith Peak Road is the easiest to navigate, as much of the elevation gain is accomplished by driving on Edith Peak Road. 

The drive to the trailhead on Edith Peak Road is gravelly and rocky. High clearance vehicles aren’t absolutely necessary but do help. Expect slow travel while driving on Edith Park Road. It’s less than 10 miles of driving on this Forest Service Road, which will take at least 40 minutes to navigate. Before turning on Edith Peak Road, the historic Ninemile Ranger Station makes for a great pitstop. 

This trail to the summit utilizes the Reservation Divide Trail to reach the talus slopes of Cha-paa-qn. Hikers immediately make their way into the woods from the trailhead. Shoulder-high shrubbery lines much of the path, interspersed by towering pine trees. Line of sight is limited for much of the hike, which traverses through deep grizzly country. Don’t forget your bear spray when hiking Cha-paa-qn. 

The trail climbs steadily, to begin with, and takes a steeper grade after about a mile. The strenuous uphill doesn’t last too long, but it’s a notable push that makes this relatively short hike still a challenge. After nearly 2.5 miles, the trail hits a junction with Sleeping Woman Trail (one of the alternate routes to the top). Here, the Reservation Divide Trail continues down the same path, and to the right is the last bit of approach to summit Cha-paa-qn. 

Shortly after departing the dirt path, the trail up to Cha-paa-qn requires scrambling approximately 0.3 miles up a moderately steep talus field. Careful on this final section, as the rocks like to move when you least expect them. Keep your eye on where you’re stepping, however, and the top of Cha-paa-qn provides a rewarding panoramic. 

Savor the flavor of the 360-degree summit views atop the peak for as long as the light allows. Mountain landscapes resonate in every direction from the top, and those with good eyesight can see the "M" on Mount Sentinel in Missoula, 25 miles away. The route back to the trailhead hypothetically should be much quicker because it’s all downhill. Just don’t forget you are in grizzly country while running down the trail. 

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Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

No

Open from

May 26 to October 31

Pros

Short summit hike. Great views. Historic ranger station nearby.

Cons

Long drive on a retired forest service road.

Trailhead Elevation

6,226.00 ft (1,897.68 m)

Highest point

7,996.00 ft (2,437.18 m)

Features

Historically significant
Big vistas
Geologically significant
Wildflowers

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Nearby Adventures

Missoula + Bitterroot Mountains, Montana
Flathead lake + Mission Range, Montana

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