The Hamilton Hikers Club was formed in the early 1930's by a local group of young people who enjoyed hiking in the mountains. They hiked to many destinations including Trapper Peak, the Lost Horse area, and other places at a time when many of today's access roads did not exist. The Club built El Capitan Lodge in 1935, in order to have a focal point for their activities. The original permit to build on Forest Service managed ground was signed by G. M. Brandborg, an early Supervisor of the Bitterroot National Forest. The building was built by the early members at an out-of-pocket cost of about $500, a significant sum during the Great Depression.

From the first days of the Lodge, many non-member guests used the facilities, and the Lodge gradually became a recreation and meeting place well known to the community. Use of the Lodge was casual, and few rules were required, perhaps because of the extraordinary community stability in the Bitterroot Valley (population in the Valley was virtually unchanged from 1910 to 1960). A 50-year celebration was held in 1985. Reminiscences and videos from this event as well as other historical material are stored by the Historical Committee. In 1991, El Capitan Lodge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Student holding pinecone

Lodge Use & Member Reservations

El Capitan Lodge is available at no charge to groups serving youth and disadvantaged adults by arrangement with the Club President, but is not rented to the general public. The Hikers’ Club encourages use by non-members, particularly by local groups, and especially by disadvantaged, disabled or youth groups, so all members should feel free to recommend use of the Lodge to community groups and to sponsor these groups whenever possible. If your group is interested in reserving the lodge, please use the contact form on this page to being the application process ASAP.

The adjacent Woods Cabin can be rented through the Darby Ranger Station.

All use of the Lodge, whether by members or non-members, is at the users own risk and any personal possessions are left at the Lodge at the owner’s risk. The community has, in general, been very supportive of the Lodge; there have been remarkably few instances of abuse in the 70 years the Lodge has been in existence.


Each member has a key to the Lodge which opens all the padlocks at the site. The key should open the gate (two p

adlocks are used here - one for the Club and one for the Forest Service - either opens gate), back door, shed, and wood storage area. Maintenance of the Lodge is on a volunteer basis, coordinated by the Building Committee and the Interior Committee. Each member should maintain the Lodge as he or she is able, and report other items to the Building Committee, keeping in mind that the Building Committee is also a volunteer group and cannot be expected to complete all jobs immediately. The Lodge should be used and cleaned in accordance with the RULES SUMMARY & CHECK LIST FOR LODGE USERS which is posted at the Lodge. All Forest Service regulations applying to the National Forest and to the Como area should be observed.

Contact us

Mary Vermillion, President

Hamilton Hikers Club

PO Box 1913

Hamilton, MT 59840

USFS LogoStatement of Non-DiscriminationThe Hamilton Hikers Clubs operates and maintains El Capitan Lodge under a special use permit from the United States Forest Service through cooperation with the Bitterroot National Forest and the Darby Ranger District. The Hamilton Hikers Clubs shall not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, sex (in educational activities), national origin, age, or disability or by curtailing or refusing to furnish accommodations, facilities, services, or use privileges offered to the public generally. In addition, the holder and its employees shall comply with the provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, as amended, and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, as amended.