In the early days of Glacier National Park, there were two trails that went up McDonald Creek around Flattop Mountain from Packer’s Roost. One went up McDonald Creek towards Trapper Creek and joined the Northern Highline by the Fifty Mountain Campground while the other went up Mineral Creek, passed a cabin and joined the Northern Highline Trail just south of Fifty Mountain. Today, both trails don’t exist on maps as they’ve been replaced with the trail directly up Flattop Mtn along Flattop Creek, however, for the adventurous, you can walk up Mineral Creek to the old cabin site.
This trail is basically no longer maintained.* Most of the trip is route finding. You start out at Packer’s Roost and walk along the well maintained trail that ends up climbing Flattop Mountain. About 20 yards before the bridge that goes over Mineral Creek, there is a faint trail which is the beginning of the adventure.
After navigating some downfall, you get to the edge of the creek. From there, you cross it for the first time of many picking up the trail, then having it disappear. Sometimes you follow up a dry seasonal creek bed while other times, you are high above it as the walls to the valley get taller and more impressive.
After about three miles on the Mineral Creek trail, you come to a wonderful ravine that the creek runs through. There used to be a bridge there and you can see some old remnants. You’ll work your way down to the creek, cross it and are on the home stretch.
The cabin used to be situated near the waterfall that marks Kipp Creek dropping into Mineral Creek. We only found a rusty pipe and a log that was sawn. There were a couple of guys up there from the USGS doing an aquatic insect survey and they came up the creek and saw the foundation which was closer to the creek (making me want to go back), however we made it and headed back on out.
*In chatting with the Park Service, they say that it is primarily used to measure snowpack levels as they have a lot of historical data. They usually access it on skis.
Trail finding info:
- Starting at Packer’s Roost, hike to the Mineral Creek Crossing. About 20-40 yards before the bridge, look for a faint trail off to the east heading up the creek. Follow that faint trail around the big hump to your left until you can’t really go any further without crossing the creek.
- Cross the creek to the wide bench on the other side of the creek. This will be just upstream from where Flattop Creek comes
- into Mineral Creek.
- Stay on the north side of the creek past the huge cut bank and navigate the mess of trees to get up on the bench just past it and you should find a trail there for a bit. Stay on that bench for awhile until you come to a big dry seasonal creek bed.
- Walk up that creek bed until it’s impossible to go any further without crossing the creek. The bench across the creek has an amazing path on it.
- Go downstream from that point just a bit so that you don’t have to climb through dense trees and cross the creek and get on that shelf. Follow that shelf until it ends.
- On the other side of the stream, another hump just out and the creek goes around that. If you look to the left of that hump, you are looking at your path. Cross the creek again and climb up the cutbank and start looking for a faint trail.
- You’ll find and lose the trail along here and maintain this elevation until you come to the gorge, so if the trail heads up or down a great deal, you’ve made a mistake. You’ll see the gorge and then start dropping.
- Cross the creek for the last time (at least for the way in) just upstream from the gorge and hike up along the other side finding the easiest path you can and work your way up until you start to see Kipp Creek coming into the area as a waterfall.
- Explore around and see what you can find!