Chief Mountain is a holy mountain to many tribes of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains on both the Canadian and American sides of the border. The legend states that Chief Mountain is the home of the Thunderbird. A young warrior once had his vision quest atop the summit for three days of horrible weather, daring to defy the Thunderbird. He and the mountain came to a peace after the third night and the warrior went on to become a great leader of his people. The mountain still hosts vision quests and artifacts on the summit are protected by law and are not to be touched or disturbed, as the summit lies within the Blackfeet Nation. Approaches from the eastern side of the peak require a Blackfeet tribal lands hiking pass, available at various local businesses for a nominal fee of $10 (as of 2014-15).
Visible from over 100 miles from the east, south and north, Chief Mountain literally stands out in front of the mountains of the Lewis Range, hence its name. To geologists, this is an extremely rare geological oddity, called a “klippe” (German word for cliff). The Lewis Range or Rocky Mountain Front is the remnants of what is known as the Lewis Overthrust. Essentially, the Overthrust is one much older tectonic plate thrust on top of another younger one. After glaciation from the Holocene (Ice Age) subsided and the modern form of the Lewis Range emerged, the most northeastern point of the Overthrust was separated from the rest of the Lewis Range, forming the klippe of Chief Mountain. There are also two small klippes just behind Chief, named Ninaki (“Chief’s wife”) and Papoose (“Baby”).