Bitterroot Mountains in Montana

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Bitterroot Mountains


The Bitterroot Mountains, located in western Montana just outside of Missoula, have over 1,500 miles of pristine trails that will guide you over mountain streams, past cascading waterfalls, within views of elk, and up jagged granite peaks.

  • Year round activities abound in the Bitterroot Mountains.
  • Kootenai Canyon and Blodgett Canyon are home to some of the most awesome climbing routes in the west.
  • Just a day hike away from Missoula.
  • The Bitterroot Mountains are named after Montana's state flower; a small, pretty, pink flower.

Overview

The impressive Bitterroot Mountains may be the most famous of the grandeur Bitterroot Range. Creating the border between Montana and the Idaho panhandle, the Bitterroot Mountains encompass nearly 5,000 square miles.

These granite mountains with multiple peaks over 9,000 ft tower over the valley below. Trapper Peak dwarfs other peaks at 10,157 ft. Alongside these peaks and dipping into the valleys live a variety of game including mountain lions, elk and bighorn sheep.

Just down the road from Missoula, the Bitterroot Mountains may have amazing peaks, big game, and plant biodiversity but the sheer untamed nature of these mountains create an awe that lead you back again and again.

Location/Information

Just outside of Missoula down Hwy 93, the Bitterroot Mountains are the city dwellers playground.

The Bitterroot National Forest lies within parts of the Bitterroot Mountains. For on the fly hiking, drive down Hwy 93 and look forthe brown forest service access signs on the side of the road.

For information, maps, and details about regulations contact the Bitterroot National Forest: (406) 363-7100.

Activities

The Bitterroot Mountains offer adventure no matter what the season. In spring, summer and fall the 1,500 miles of trail are perfect for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and even rock climbing. Come winter, outdoor adventurers bundle up for winter sports.

Hiking
Peak baggers delight as the Bitterroots have some amazing summit hikes. The peaks from Lolo and Lost Trail Passes will keep you busy for years. For shorter day hikes, the two hikes listed below should get you started.

  • Baker Lake Trail: This trail is a bit steep and rough, but at only one mile it's all over before you realize your tired. Although a bit small, Baker Lake provides a scenic spot for lunch. From Missoula, head south on Hwy 93 past Darby and take a right on West Fork Road. Turn right at Baker Lake Road, and hang right for the next to two forks. The trailhead is up ahead with limited parking.
  • Bear Creek Trail: Moderate climb and only 1.5 miles to the waterfall makes this a fairly popular trail. Most folks stop at the waterfall for a bit of lunch and fishing. If you want to go further, trails fork north and south from the Creek, but pay attention as they are sometimes hard to follow. Barely 45 minutes away, this is a great hike from Missoula. Take Hwy 93 south just past Victor, take a right on Bear Creek Road and then a right on Red Crow Road. Continue for a mile till junction and take a left, 3 miles to Bear Creek trailhead.

Biking
Three biking trails are available in the Bitterroot Mountains. Part of the mountain range falls under the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness area, which means no bikes are allowed. Check out the wilderness area boundaries before cycling your way into a fine.

Fishing
An abundance of trout filled mountain streams and alpine lakes dot the Bitterroot Mountains. If your back cast keeps getting stuck in the trees, drop into the Bitterroot River, found in the Bitterroot Valley just east of the mountains. No matter where you decide to fish, make sure to get a permit; found at local fly shops or with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.

Horseback Riding
For a chance to get deep into the mountains, saddle up and start riding. The steep nature of some of the trails may cause slight problems but over all you should be fine. If you are packing in for a couple of days, remember to use weed-seed-free feed. A mandatory practice if you cross into parts of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area.

Rock Climbing
Amazing granite slabs await your ascent. Kootenai Canyon holds multiple pitches for trad, sport, and toprope climbs, with multi-pitch leading to amazing views in Blodgett Canyon. If you don't feel like hauling all your gear in, check out the bouldering at Lost Horse.

Hunting
This secluded mountain wilderness is home to an abundance of big game. Hunters check with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks for specific seasons, regulations, and permit information.

Cross-country Skiing/Snow Shoeing
The Bitterroot Mountains aren't just for summertime enjoyment. Strap on your snowshoes or cross-country skiis and blaze your own trail through the snow. Bring a thermos of hot chocolate and take a minute to enjoy the beauty of the mountains under a blanket of snow cover.

Fun Facts

  • The area draws it's name from Montana's state flower, Bitterroot, which is a small pink flower.
  • If your around in July, huckleberry patches should be ripe for the picking.

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