A hiker enjoys the views from Mt. Aeneas.

Expert Guide to Hiking Mt. Aeneas in Montana

In the summer of 2023, I took my second visit to the Kalispell area and finally checked out the Mt. Aeneas hike. To most, this hike is pretty standard. But for me, coming off a cancer battle, it was my first summit of the year and showed that my recovery was going phenomenally well!

The trail is gorgeous, lined with trees and wildflowers. Then, as you get higher and higher, the peaks of the Continental Divide appear, as well as Jewel Basin below.

You’re in for a real treat, and I appreciate you taking the time to read my guide and check out the photos below!

Hiking Mt. Aeneas in Jewel Basin

Hike Stats

  • Distance: 6.2 Miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,800-2,000 feet, depending on the route
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
  • Time on Trail: 2.5 – 4 hours
  • Be Aware of Wildlife
a trail leading through the montana wilderness
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Trail Report for Summiting Mt. Aeneas

After flying into Kalispell and getting settled, I headed toward Mt Aeneas and Jewel Basin. I had heard wonderful things and was super stoked to check it out.

The drive-in was a piece of cake, minus one section of the road that looked way worse than it actually was. 

Once I hit the trail, bear spray in hand as always in bear country, I didn’t see a soul for almost two miles. It was a very welcome introduction to Montana!

RELATED: 10 Things To Do When You Visit Kalispell

Those first 1.5 miles are a pleasant stroll through the forest with only 600 feet of gain. Here, you’ll reach a junction with multiple trails going various ways. You’ll want to veer left onto the Mount Aeneas Trail towards the summit. 

purple flowers on the side of the trail
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

This is where the majority of your elevation gain will take place. 

Luckily, the trail was still relatively gradual, with a few short and long switchbacks taking you up the mountain’s south side. 

At the 2.5-mile mark, you’ll reach the ridgeline. Holy smokes, it was beautiful. This offers your first views of Jewel Basin before you and Mt. Aeneas off to your right. Furthermore, you can also see the stunning peaks near Glacier National Park. 

jagged peaks of montana
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
looking west from the ridgeline towards kalispell and flathead lake
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Once on the ridge line, it also got windy, and the temperature dropped. So, if you are doing this for sunset, bring a light jacket for the top. 

For the next half mile, your views keep getting better and better. 10-15 minutes later, depending on how many photos you take along the way, you’ll reach the top of Mount Aeneas. The entire Jewel Basin will be visible, with 360-degree views.

I was blown away! 

I was on top for about 20 minutes, taking photos and enjoying the sights. But dang, it got chilly up there. Once the light began to fade, I headed down, wanting to avoid being in complete darkness once I got into the forested area. 

The route down was easy, and I could jog some sections. Less than an hour later, I was at my car with a faint glimmer of light still remaining in the sky. (Summer’s in Montana can see daylight until 10:30 or later.)

various lakes in the jewel basin area
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Your Guide to Hiking Mt. Aeneas Summit Trail

Where is Mount Aeneas Located

Mount Aeneas is located on the eastern side of Kalispell in the Flathead National Forest. It is the tallest peak in the Jewel Basin area at 7,500 feet. This area has over 15,000 acres for hiking and recreation, with more than 20 alpine lakes to enjoy. 

Finding the Trailhead

The Mt. Aeneas Trailhead is listed on the map as Camp Misery Trailhead. It is at the end of Jewel Basin Rd, so you can’t possibly get lost once you’re on it. 

From Kalispell, it’s about a 50-minute drive that’s pretty easy. You’ll take the 93 South to the 82 to the 35 to the 83 before turning left onto Echo Lake Road. You’ll follow this for a while before it turns into Jewel Basin Rd. This is also when it turns into a dirt road.

picnic lakes inside jewel basin
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

I drove this in the summertime with a 4-door passenger car with no issues. However, there was one uphill section that had some ruts, which spooked me. I got out of my car and checked them out.

They weren’t too bad, and I was primarily worried about my 2WD tires slipping on loose dirt. Thankfully, the car had zero issues for this 40-yard span, and the rest of the road was smooth sailing. 

Tips for hiking to the Mountslack Aeneas Summit

  • I would do the loop route through Picnic Lakes. It is about the same distance round trip, and you’ll see prettier views.
  • Bring bear spray
  • Be prepared for mountain goats
  • Windy on the top
  • The trail is easy to navigate
  • Go just past the Mt. Aeneas summit to view the lakes on the south side
  • Weekends will be crowded
  • Remember to enjoy yourself!

How Hard is the hike to the top

This is a super mellow hike to the summit. It has just over 500 feet of gain per mile, which makes it a moderately challenging hike. I would say there’s more elevation in the latter half, but there are some pretty long switchbacks, which are nice.

I also did it 5 months after beating cancer and a bone marrow transplant, so if I can do it, I’m sure you can, too! 

A hiker enjoys the views from Mt. Aeneas.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

What is the hiking time?

For me, the trail took me 2.5 hours. I got up to the summit in 90 minutes, took some photos, and the return trip was 60 minutes down. I was moving quickly on the way down as it was getting dark. I was alone and didn’t want to hike in the dark in bear country. 

Are there any bathrooms 

Yes, there are bathrooms at the trailhead. They are vault toilets – nothing fancy. 

Are dogs allowed on the trail?

Yes, dogs are allowed on the trail but keep them leashed. There’s a good chance of encountering wildlife; you don’t want them to be away from you and get hurt. 

sunset on the mountains in the flathead national forest in montana
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

When is the best time of year for hiking Mt. Aeneas

Once the snow melts, this is a perfect place to hike. The first half of the Mt. Aeneas trail is on a north-facing slope, so it will melt slowly. However, the second half, which is higher up, is south-facing and on a ridgeline. That may have a quicker melt time. 

Overall, I would say the best time to do this hike would be summer and fall. 

Will I have cell service? 

I honestly can’t recall if there was cell phone service on the trail. I think there was some near the top once you got out from the trees and had a clear shot of Kalispell. You’re not that far from the metro area, so I think you’ll have something. 

More Photos of Mt. Aeneas

Backpacking to Jewel Basin

If you want to backpack into Jewel Basin, you can. I wouldn’t recommend sleeping near the summit as it was windy, but Picnic Lakes or elsewhere would be a beautiful area to spend the night. 

There are tons of lakes in the area, and if you look hard enough, you’ll be able to find solitude. 

Check out these options for backpacking: 

  • Alpine Big Hawk Trail #722
  • Birch Lake Trail #724
  • Blackfoot Lake Trail #719
  • Clayton Creek Trail #420
  • Graves Creek Trail #1
  • Picnic Lakes Trail #392
  • Wheeler Creek Trail #64

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What gear to pack for your Mt. Aeneas hike

For a day hike, you don’t need to go overboard. Here’s what I brought:

  • Bear Spray
  • 2L of water and snacks
  • Hat 
  • Moisture wicking shirt
  • Hiking pants
  • Mid-size backpack
  • Camera and lenses
  • Headlamp

Shop hiking gear here

Where to stay in Kalispell

I enjoyed staying in Kalispell. It’s a bit cheaper than Whitefish and West Glacier, though only 25 minutes away or so. It’s also a 12-minute drive to the airport, which is super nice!

🛏️Budget Lodging: Econo Lodge Inn & Suites
🛏️Mid-Tier Lodging: Homewood Suites by Hilton
🛏️Higher End Lodging: Hampton Inn – Kalispell

Staying in Whitefish or West Glacier

I stayed in West Glacier during a 2017 trip to Glacier National Park, and the convenience was amazing! For Whitefish, the lake is one of the popular places to hang out during the summer, so being close to there would be epic, too.

Whitefish Hotel Locations
West Glacier Locations

Book a Rental Car

Leave No Trace

Please recreate responsibly while hiking and camping in the area. While this gets less foot traffic than Glacier National Park, it’s still a very popular area. If everyone does their part to make it better than they left it, we can keep this area pristine for future generations. 

Credit: USDA

FAQ: Summiting Mt. Aeneas in Montana

Will I see Mountain Goats?

The odds are high you’ll see mountain goats near the top of the trail. I saw a few when I was just below the ridgeline and even had one come straight at me after getting off the trail. Remember, adult animals act more aggressively when their kids are around. 

a mountain goat on the mt aeneas trail
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

What are the water sources on the Mt. Aeneas hike?

There are no consistent water sources if you take the standard route up to Mt. Aeneas. If you go the Picnic Lakes Route, you’ll pass two small lakes that offer water. Make sure you use a water filter while in the backcountry. 

Do I need a permit to hike or camp here?

No permit is needed to recreate or stay overnight in the Jewel Basin area. 

Are there bears?

This is bear country. I didn’t see any on my trip, but they are here. Always carry bear spray with you, and make sure it is accessible. 

Are mountain bikes allowed in Jewel Basin?

Mountain bikes are not allowed in the area. No stock, mechanized, or motored use is permitted. 

Wrapping Up the Mt. Aeneas Hike

I thoroughly enjoyed the hike into Jewel Basin and to the top of Mt. Aeneas. It’s a very doable hike and offers incredible views of the surrounding areas. Plus, if you do it during the week and at sunset, it’ll allow you some solitude in this surreal natural wonder. 

Happy Trails!

Until next time, adventurers, take care and be safe.

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Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside