Things to do in northwest Montana: The Goat Lick on Highway 2 near Essex
If you are driving Highway 2 between West Glacier and East Glacier in the northwest corner of Montana, I recommend stopping at the Goat Lick Overlook near Essex.
What brings people to this spot is the hope of seeing mountain goats. Usually mountain goats prefer to stay on the rocky cliffs at much higher elevations. But during the spring, goats will descend from the mountains of Glacier National Park down to the natural mineral licks found on the eroding cliffs above the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. The goats need the salts and minerals that are found in these banks.
Because vehicles posed a threat to mountain goats trying to cross the highway, fences were built to direct goats under the highway, which provides a safe way for the goats to get to the lick. This is thought to be the most popular natural lick in Glacier National Park. If you are lucky, you might even see goats compete for the best salt licks.
The Goat Lick is marked by a sign on the highway, which lets you know where to turn. A sharp turn leads you down to an overlook with a small parking lot area. There is an additional path that leads down to your right that you will want to take for the viewing platform that will provide views of the main lick – a gray section of cliff. I wouldn’t recommend bringing camper trailers down here; the parking lot is small and you may struggle to turn around. There are bathrooms in the parking lot.
When to visit? The best time of day is early morning or in the evenings. The best time to visit the Goat Lick is April through August to see goats. July may be the best time to see large numbers of goats here. Goats may be found here year-round, however. The road won’t open until later in the spring, but you can still turn off the highway and park at the gate to walk in. (As we did in May, 2015.)
We last visited in May 2015. We arrived early in the morning, and were not lucky enough to see any mountain goats. Thankfully my toddler was not too disappointed. I recommend bringing binoculars for better viewing. Be sure to stop by the Goat Lick on your drive around Glacier National Park!
Warm Wishes from Big Sky Country,
Alex M. Neill
Montana Vacation Blog