• A woman rests on rock over looking Missouri River Breaks south of Malta. Photo by Tony Bynum/tonybynum.com

Island Range Chapter Walks

Photo by Tony Bynum

  

8

Sunday, May 15

Collar Peak

Location: Lewistown
Public Land Management: Bureau of Land Management
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 6 miles, 750 ft
Difficulty: Moderately - Strenuous
Leaders: Laurie Lohrer and Dave Mari

This well-maintained trail leads us into a backcountry area with a mix of terrain, solitude, and gorgeous views. A few miles into the loop, we will have lunch at the summit of Collar Peak, an open summit with panoramic views of the Little Belts, Bear Paws, Big Snowies, and plains of eastern Montana. As we continue to complete the loop, we may see elk, bear, eagles, or other wildlife. The Judith Mountains have a rich history, complete with ghost towns and abandoned gold mines, once operated in the 1880’s.  Portions of the Judiths are currently under consideration by Bureau of Land Management to be managed as an “area with wilderness characteristics”.

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12

Sunday, May 22

Timber Creek

Location: Lewistown
Public Land Management: Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 5 to 6 miles, 1,000 ft
Difficulty: Moderately - Strenuous
Leader: Tim Faber

The south side of the Snowy Mountains offers a more primitive and less-traveled wilderness experience. We will stroll up the West Fork of Timber Creek on an old abandoned logging road before following a faint game trail into old growth timber. During lunch we will have outstanding views of the eastern Montana plains, the Crazies, and other distant mountain ranges. Then we will wander down the East Fork, where we saw a cinnamon black bear on the hike last year.

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13

Saturday, May 28

Sun Canyon Kids' Hike

Location: Augusta
Public Land Management: Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 3.5 miles, 200 ft
Difficulty: Easy
Leaders: Len Kopec and Deva McKnight

We will follow an easy trail into the scenic Sun River Canyon to some interesting pictographs and dozens of red ochre handprints left on the canyon wall long ago.  On the return trip we will travel through cottonwoods along the Sun River, learn a few plants, look for wildlife signs, and enjoy the scenery.  After returning to the vehicles, there will be an option to extend the hike into Wagner Basin, where we will see more pictographs, look for bighorn sheep, and see some old beaver dams and lodges.

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15

Saturday, June 4

Hannan Gulch

Location: Augusta
Public Land Management: Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 2 miles, 600 ft
Difficulty: Easy
Leaders: Dan Bennett and Dave Shea

We will start our hike at the Hannan Gulch Bridge, and then walk a little way along the Sun River. We will continue to hike uphill to a saddle and a little farther up onto a hogback. From there we will view upper Hannan Gulch, the backside of Castle Reef, Sun River Canyon, French Gulch, and Norwegian Gulch.  The trail will then take us through a Douglas-Fir forest to a historic Forest Service cabin, and after our visit there we will start hiking back down.

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19

Saturday, June 4

Lost River

Location: Hingham
Public Land Management: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 5 miles, 300 ft
Difficulty: Moderately - Strenuous
Leaders: Jim Bennett and Scott Hemmer

Lost River is a new wildlife management area on the Canadian border that was created primarily to conserve and enhance riparian habitats and wildlife populations along the Milk River. We will cross the river to explore some of the scenic breaks country on the north side of the valley, where many historic and archaeological sites are located, and with a little luck, we should see wildlife too. Joining the group will be Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks biologist Scott Hemmer, who will talk about the wildlife in the refuge. Expect great views of the Sweet Grass Hills and Bear Paw Mountains. Bring boots, water-shoes, lunch, and plenty of water.

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26

Saturday, June 11

East Butte Sweet Grass Hills

Location: Chester
Public Land Management: Bureau of Land Management
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 7.5 miles, 3,100 ft
Difficulty: Strenuous
Leaders: Patrick Johnson and Arlo Skari

From the top of East Butte, you will view the vast Northern Plains: the Bear Paws, Highwoods, and other Island Ranges, the Rocky Mountain Front, and southern Alberta, including Writing-on-the-Stone Provincial Park. We will cross two mountain streams, identify flowers, inspect a limestone cave of great significance to Native Americans, and listen to an expert describe all aspects of the Sweet Grass Hills.  The leaders will discuss the history and the threat of heap-leach gold mining.  A 20-year moratorium on mining is currently protecting habitat for moose, elk, deer, golden eagles, and sacred sites of the Northern Plains tribes.  Bring plenty of water and rain gear.

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27

Saturday, June 11

Hall Creek

Location: East Glacier Park
Public Land Management: Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 6 to 7 miles, 500 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Leaders: Casey Perkins and Kendall Flint

This hike enters the stunning Badger-Two Medicine wildlands from the entrance to the Rising Wolf Guest Ranch, west of East Glacier Park. We will follow trails from the South Fork of the Two Medicine River to historic Hall Creek. After paralleling Hall Creek along an overlooking ridge, we will drop down and ford the creek to access the proposed Hall Creek oil well site. This wild landscape includes mixed forest, open meadows, and rugged river canyon. Natural beauty, native plant and wildlife habitat, Blackfeet cultural history, panoramic views of Glacier National Park and the Badger-Two Medicine, and stories galore await hikers on this special trip. These delights will be contrasted with fading scars of prior ATV use and potential for oil and gas development of this area. Previous hikers here have been rewarded with grizzly tracks and views of distant grazing grizzly bear.

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32

Saturday, June 11

Frenchies Gulch

Location: Geyser
Public Land Management: Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 5 miles, 1,000 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Leader: Joshua Werkheiser

We will follow an old route in the Granite Roadless Area, an area now closed to motorized vehicles, that follows a creek bottom through a mix of rock outcroppings, dense timber, and open meadows.  If there’s interest, the group has the option of taking a longer hike up the ridge toward Taylor Peak for more expansive views. This remote, little-known roadless area, has retained its wilderness characteristics, providing opportunities for a primitive recreation experience. With a little luck we might just see deer, elk, or even black bear.

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40

Saturday, June 18

North Fork Dupuyer Creek

Location: Dupuyer
Public Land Management: Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 3 to 4 miles,
Difficulty: Easy
Leaders: Dan Bennett and Dave Shea

Join us on a leisurely wildflower stroll across the Old North Trail and grizzly country. The hike will start at Johnson's Crossing and wander across the prairie toward North Fork Canyon with Walling Reef as our backdrop. Dave Shea, legendary naturalist and Glacier Park ranger, will help with identification of wildflowers, wildlife species, and the outstanding geology of the area. There is a chance of seeing more than 75 species of flowers, as well as ancient teepee rings. In the event of high water we will divert to the nature trail on the southern ridge of the valley.

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49

Friday, June 24

Two Medicine Fight Site

Location: Cut Bank
Public Land Management: Bureau of Indian Affairs
Private Landowner
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 4 miles, none
Difficulty: Moderate
Leaders: Larry Epstein and Callie Epstein

Walk a wild stretch of prairie through river breaks and cottonwoods to the historic site where Meriwether Lewis and his party encountered the Blackfeet. This is a great opportunity to learn the events surrounding this significant Corps of Discovery conflict. . We will also take a look at some of the local plants identified by the expedition. Advance reading of the Lewis and Clark journals is suggested.

Participants will be asked to donate $25 each for an access fee to cross private land and to purchase a tribal conservation license (required).

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54

Saturday, June 25

Buffalo Lakes

Location: East Glacier Park
Public Land Management: Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 4 miles, 500 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Leaders: Kendall Flint and Miki Flint

Join us on a journey to Buffalo Lake, a short distance into the Badger Two-Medicine.  Along the way there will be opportunities to stop and look back at Glacier National Park's southern mountains, check out wildflowers, and listen for birds. We will take lunch at the middle lake and, if the group is up for it, we can take the lake trail to the upper lake and climb up on a low ridge where we can get a better look at the Badger Two-Medicine. Although there is a gradual elevation gain, we consider this hike ideal for families with children, beginning hikers, or those just looking for an easy outing.

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62

Saturday, July 9

Ear Mountain Outstanding Natural Area & Yeager Flats

Location: Choteau
Public Land Management: Bureau of Land Management
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 6 miles, 500 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Meeting Time/Place: 7:00 a.m. at Paris Gibson Square (1400 1st Ave N) in Great Falls or 8:15 a.m. at Choteau Visitor Center in Choteau
Leaders: Dan Bennett and Dave Shea

This hike passes through limber pine savannah, narrow-leafed cottonwood groves, sagebrush, Douglas fir/Engelmann spruce forest, part of the lightning-caused Ear Mountain burn, and ends up in a vast, high-elevation native fescue prairie near the base of Ear Mountain. In these varied habitats grow a variety of shrubs, grasses, and forbs, including bitterroots and several orchid species. Clark’s nutcracker, chickadees, and other birds are common, as well as prairie falcon nests. This is good mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and black and grizzly bear country. Archaeology, history, geology, wildlife, and management issues will be discussed. To conclude the trail drops down through meadows and old-growth forest to an old Métis cemetery on the South Fork.

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70

Saturday, July 16

Ice Cave

Location: Lewistown
Public Land Management: Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 12 miles, 2,150 ft
Difficulty: Extremely Strenuous
Leaders: Dave Byerly and Dave Mari

Widely regarded as Montana’s most intact island mountain range, the Big Snowy Mountains Wilderness Study Area (91,000 acres) provides a great selection of hiking opportunities for those looking for a place less traveled. A favorite for many is the loop trail hike to the Ice Cave, as expansive views and unusual geology make this hike outstanding.  We will hike through the forest and then onto a ridge that takes us to the top of the range. On top, we will traverse several miles along a fairly level trail with 360-degree views, where on a clear day, you can see all the way from Wyoming to Canada. We will drop down a short distance on a side trail to the Ice Cave, a great place to cool down on a hot summer day.  The trip down provides scenic overlooks of Crystal Lake.

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76

Saturday, July 23

Kiyo Crag

Location: East Glacier Park
Public Land Management: Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 7 to 12 miles, 1,500 ft
Difficulty: Extremely Strenuous
Leaders: Regina Rink and Dylan DesRosier

Join dedicated Glacier Two-Medicine Alliance volunteers on a spectacular adventure where the mountains meet the prairie. Expect views of the Sweet Grass Hills and Bob Marshall Wilderness, as well as the stunning Badger-Two Medicine. One group will venture to the peak and another group will continue to a beautiful cirque lake.  Please be prepared for our Rocky Mountain Front winds and don't forget your bear spray. High clearance vehicles are advised for driving to the trailhead.

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79

Saturday, July 23

West Fork Teton

Location: Choteau
Public Land Management: Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 2 miles, none
Difficulty: Easy
Leaders: Mary Thibaudeau and Maria Winslow

Have you longed to visit the spectacular Bob Marshall Wilderness?  Enjoy Mother Nature at her finest with wildflowers in bloom, majestic mountain views, and lunch on the banks of the Teton River.  Inside the Wilderness boundary we will have Mt. Wright as a dramatic backdrop.  With leisure in mind, there will be plenty of time to stop, peruse, and enjoy.

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84

Saturday, July 30

Woodhawk Creek

Location: Lewistown
Public Land Management: Bureau of Land Management
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 6 miles, 600 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Leaders: Mary Frieze and Clint Loomis

We will begin our journey in a remote area of Missouri Breaks National Monument. This is an off-trail hike that will take us to an enchanted set of bentonite rock formations where we will have lunch. If there is enough interest the hike can be extended for further exploration of this awe-inspiring area. The terrain is made from powerful erosional forces and is one of many attributes that make the Missouri River Breaks so amazing.

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91

Saturday, August 13

Black Elk Coulee

Location: Havre
Public Land Management: Bureau of Land Management
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 7 miles, 1,000 feet
Difficulty: Moderately - Strenuous
Leaders: Gordon Whirry and Josh Chase

Located just outside the northern border of Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, Black Elk Coulee is one of three irregular shaped areas clustered together that have been identified by the Bureau of Land Management as having wilderness characteristics. The ridgetops and benches on the southern end of the unit offer outstanding panoramic views of the badlands and breaks topography that is unique to the Missouri River Breaks. This remote area is known to have excellent mule deer hunting opportunities and supports a world-class bighorn sheep herd. There are also numerous paleontological sites and prehistoric resources.  To help interpret the historic and cultural sites, BLM Archaeologist Josh Chase will join the group.

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99

Saturday, August 27 - Sunday, August 28

Nez Perce Trail

Location: Big Sandy
Public Land Management: Bureau of Land Management
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 5 to 6 miles, none
Difficulty: Moderate
Leader: Tim Faber

Enjoy a scenic drive along the Bears Paw Mountains on the historic Cow Island Trail, where bullwhackers freighted during the Steamboat Era on the Missouri River. We will car camp overlooking Cow Island on Saturday.  On Sunday we will hike along the Nez Perce Trail and into the Cow Creek Wilderness Study Area, in the heart of the Badlands. We usually see elk, bighorn sheep, antelope, and short-horned lizards on this annual hike.

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102

Friday, September 9

Our Lake

Location: Choteau
Public Land Management: Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 7 miles, 1,506 ft
Difficulty: Moderately - Strenuous
Leaders: Jo Ann Wright and Bonnie Warren

Join us for a leisurely climb to a high alpine lake surrounded by subalpine fir. Along the trail, we will discuss the Métis history of the area. Mountain goats are frequently seen scampering along the cliffs above the lake. Our Lake was added to the Bob Marshall Wilderness in the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act that was passed by Congress and signed by the President in December of 2014.

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104

Saturday, September 17

Middle Fork of the Judith River

Location: Utica
Public Land Management: Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 13 miles,  900 ft
Difficulty: Moderately - Strenuous
Leaders: Noel Birkland and Sandy Birkland

Island range geology and canyon scenery are woven into this day on the trail in a local wilderness study area. This loop hikes starts in high meadows along Woodchopper Ridge. We will then descend through a ponderosa pine forest, past Arch Coulee and into a spectacular limestone canyon carved by the Middle Fork of the Judith River. From there we will travel down the the canyon following the river. This portion of the hike has several stream crossings, so bring extra shoes for wading. After the hike we will stop for the famous large burgers at the Oxen Yoke Inn.

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107

Tuesday, September 20

Arrow Creek Field Sketching Hike

Location: Geraldine
Public Land Management: Bureau of Land Management
Trail Miles, Elevation Gain: 3 miles, 500 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Leaders: Jay Eklund and George Bumann

Join Montana Wilderness Association and C.M. Russell Museum on a hike into one of the more remote and rugged parts of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. Arrow Creek is a small meandering stream, flanked by cottonwoods, which works its way down to the Missouri River. The group will follow a ridge with rock outcroppings that looks down on Arrow Creek. Some colorful wildflowers may still be present along with prickly pear cactus. We will stop along the way to sketch our observations. Artist George Burmann will provide instruction. Bring lunch, water and dress for the weather.

Art supplies will cost $60 per participant.

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