Lima Peaks

by Greg Iverson
Garfield Mountain in the Lima Peaks | Rick and Susie Graetz

Rising in Montana’s southwest corner, they are what mountains should look like and are some of Montana’s most impressive gathering of summits. Folks living in Lima, Montana, can claim them as part of their community as it seems these Lima Peaks begin their climb from the edge of town. Oriented in an east to west direction and carrying the Montana-Idaho border and the Continental Divide, several of their summits exceed 10,000 feet. Garfield Mountain is the highest at 10,961 feet.

They are characterized by lofty barren windblown slopes and scree fields interspersed with forests of Douglas Fir, Mountain Mahogany, lodgepole pine, and other species. In the winter and spring months, snow deposits on the ridges’ leeward side seem to mimic curtains or waves.  Jagged vertical rock chutes give way to high, lonesome crests with views in all directions. 

It is easy to lose yourself drinking in the endless vistas around every corner.  This mountain range is worth its weight in charm, from the rocky peaks to the sagebrush meadows. Here is mountain diversity at its best. 

About 20 miles of the Continental Divide Trail winds along the southern perimeter of the peaks. Access to CD Trailheads can be found along Forest Road 1079 or the Sawmill Trailhead Road as it is also known. Another spur off of this road is Shineberger. This trailhead is popular with hikers as it lies directly on the Continental Divide Trail and is used as a resupply point and an excellent camp spot with good water. 

Northbound continental divide hikers will find a trailhead access point at the end of the Middle Fork Road. However, these are very remote places, making resupply difficult.

From the Divide Trail, wrapping around the south side of Garfield Mountain, two peaks in the Lima massif can be seen to the south.  Red Conglomerate Peaks stand at a lofty 10,250’, and Knob Mountain stretches to 9,762’. It appears these uplifts go on forever, and indeed southwest Montana’s far corner is a mass of pinnacles.

Lima Peaks, Red Rock River Valley | Rick and Susie Graetz

Access to the north side of the Lima Peaks is best achieved via Little Sheep Creek road.  There are several spur roads reached from here. An entry point and a campground are located near the head of the East Fork.  The campground has some excellent campsites with beautiful vistas compliments of the rugged Lima Peaks clawing at the sky to the south.

In these northern reaches, the Middle Fork Road leads to the Middle Fork Trailhead and a route to White Pine Ridge.

Several internet sites outline hiking and climbing suggestions for these Lima Peaks. The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest Map shows access points and roads. They are a seldom visit mountain range yet rank amongst the best of Montana’s lofty places.