Five Western Montana Hikes that Will Make Your Summer
A wealth of beatiful adventures await between Yellowstone and Glacier
Exploring Montana, Featured
Between the famous and splendid landscapes of Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks await a lifetime of less heralded mountains and wilderness areas to explore. Trails on public lands in western Montana offer decidedly un-crowded and incredibly scenic options for outdoor recreation. MWA’s online hiking guide, hikewildmontana.org, is an excellent resource for choosing your next adventure this summer. Lakes, waterfalls, peaks – all can be accessed from hundreds of trails that you can pick based on ability, time, proximity, and desired scenery.
Here are five trails to get you inspired. For more on the trails, click on the name of any of them, and you'll be taken to their descriptions on hikewildmontana.org.
If you really want to get away from it all, there are few better choices than spending a couple of nights at Torrey Lake in the East Pioneers Recommended Wilderness Area. Accessed via the dead-end David Creek Trail, this lake – situated just shy of 9,000 feet with Torrey Peak towering above at 11,1147 feet – offers excellent camping in an absolutely stunning setting.
While a hike in the Bitterroot Mountains is always a pleasure and the views from Bitterroot Peaks are incredible, sometimes it helps to step back for some perspective on their grandeur. This hike in the Stony Mountain Roadless Area of the Sapphire Mountains provides a vista of the Bitterroots from the other side of the valley and is an exceptionally enjoyable hike – not too long, not too steep, not too monotonous, and not too crowded.
This rugged trail guarantees a good workout and good scenery and offers better-than-average odds at solitude as well. Tucked just inside the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and just below Boulder Peak, Nelson Lake is particularly intriguing due to the immense rockslide that created a natural dam.
If you’re looking for a challenging trail with commensurate scenic rewards, Canyon Creek Trail is a suitable candidate. Pleasant streamside forest, a steep and rocky climb with great views, a stream cascading down granite cliffs, and a gorgeous lake make for an experience greater than the sum of its parts. Suitable as a day hike but with plenty of options for camping at Canyon Lake, this is a hike well-worth the effort.
This is a hike that simply seems too good to be true. The mellow and well-maintained Upper Miner Lake Trail leads to an idyllic mountain lake in the Beaverhead Mountains. Several campsites worthy of the cover of Backpacker Magazine and mind-blowing stargazing on clear fall nights make this a strong contender for an overnight trip, but the modest distance from the trailhead makes it doable as a day hike.
- Mark Wetherington, MWA volunteer