Hiking Bass Creek in the Bitterroot Valley!

CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN: Hiking Bass Creek in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley!

In Montana, sometimes the weather changes overnight.  The last week of June offered temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s.  This week things have heated up into the 90’s and in some places past 100!  When summer starts to sizzle, it’s time to play in the shade!  After fixing breakfast for guests and watering the hanging plants, we decided it was a good day to hit the road in search of shady pastures and clear mountain creeks.  With bed and breakfast guests arriving around 4:00, we opted for a small hike up an area that is a favorite with us.  Bass Creek is only a short drive from Blue Mountain Bed Breakfast and offers wonderful afternoon shade and easy access to the stream.  It’s a win, win on any hot summer day and a place our dogs and Godson love to go to beat the heat!  On this particular adventure, the wildflowers were such a treat.  Everything from wild roses to thimbleberries and syringa were in full bloom.  That, matched with the sparkling mica on the rocks, the rushing stream and green foliage made for the perfect day.  Several beautiful, shallow pool areas offered ample opportunities to dip our paws in the soothing water.  (We did check to make sure nobody was fishing the creek nearby.)  I really don’t know if the four leggeds or the two leggeds had more fun?  It was a great way to welcome in the first day of July after being so accustomed to this year’s cool June.
*Time of Year to Visit:  Bass Creek is a beautiful hike any time of year, but is particularly wonderful in the heat of summer because it offers so much shade.  Even smack dab in the middle of the day, the hike is truly enjoyable!  During the summer, Bass Creek is almost always our first choice because it is so scenic and cool and such a short distance to drive.  Of course, it’s a beautiful place to hike no matter what time of year and when the leaves start to turn in the fall the hike is stunning!
Note: If you plan on camping during a holiday, the area can fill up fairly quickly.
*Driving Directions from Missoula: Drive 20 miles south on Highway 93, passing through Lolo and Florence.  If you are staying at Blue Mountain Bed and Breakfast,
it is about 15 miles and will take about twenty five minutes.  Be looking for the Bass Creek and Larry Creek signs which are off on the right hand side of the highway.
There is plenty of parking space at the trail head which is 2.5 miles in from the highway.  The road is paved part of the way and passes through lush pasture land with views of the mountain peaks.The last part of the short drive takes you through the shade of trees and across a bridge.  You will want to stay on the main dirt road which goes toward the left.  The Forest Service is currently thinning part of the area on the right hand side of the road to prevent the spread of pine beetles.  The camp area and trail head are not effected by the logging work being done, however.  If you are coming from Hamilton, drive 23 miles north on Highway 93 and turn left at Bass Creek.

*Area Opportunities:  Besides hiking, Bass Creek offers some really good fishing part of the year.   It is also popular with horse back riders and is great if you have a pooch or two.  The campground is large and very close to the trail head which makes it convenient.  The creek is within just a few hundred feet of the campground and the initial trail follows the creek very closely which is nice.  There are fresh water spigots, a well-maintained outhouse, picnic tables and fire pits.  There is an unloading area for horses and many places for tie up.
Like most areas in Missoula, Bass Creek is designated as a NO TRAP area which means it is truly dog friendly.  In other areas around the state, dogs have occasionally been caught in traps.  It’s a subject that involves many heated and on-going arguments.

*The Hike:  The larger Bass Creek area is surrounded by beauty from birds and butterflies to magnificent rock cliffs and clear, refreshing water.
The Larry Creek Campground side offers an actual fire ecology trail with many interpretive signs along the way.  Anywhere within the area you will find an abundance of flora and fauna and varying types of ecosystems.  The trail we like to take in the heat of summer is near the Bass Creek campsite.  To get onto the trail, you walk a short distance on an old vehicle-restricted road.  About one hundred yards up the road, the trail forks to the left.  The creek is on the left hand side and the trail follows it closely for the first mile, winding through shady trees.  On the right hand side, a person walks under magnificent cliffs and through areas with large boulders.  The stream alternates between areas of swift moving water and shallow pools that are perfect for a hot summer’s day dip.  The trail eventually begins to climb high above the creek itself.  Eventually a person comes to a log dam where the trail again nears the creek.  The area near the end of the hike offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains!  The hike is a 3 mile round trip (you hike out the same trail you came in on.)  It takes a little over an hour without stops and there is a gain of only 500 feet in elevation (not much for a hike in the mountains of Montana).  It usually takes us several hours to cover the first mile simply because we enjoy stopping to wade or fish and take in the beautiful scenery.  The hike is so gradual that it can be enjoyed by almost anyone and makes the perfect family outing.

If you would like additional information regarding recreational areas in the Missoula and Bitterroot areas, click here on the U.S. National Forest Campground Guide.  Another great resource is the guide book Day Hikes Around Missoula Montana by Robert Stone.  We always send guests with a copy when they take off for a day’s outing.
Trail Wise Tips- keeping one another safe:  The sun and heat can catch up to a person quickly and even in the winter, water and sunscreen are important items to take along on a hike.  Another thing to keep in mind is that bears and other wildlife are sometimes in the area and so packing things in and out and keeping food a safe distance from camp at night is important.  Feeding ground squirrels may seem fun, but if they consistently are fed a poor diet, they can actually starve during the winter.  And you know what they say about bears… “A fed bear is a dead bear.”
At Bass Creek, dogs need only be leashed in the campground area, but even on the trail it’s important to bring a leash along.  On an early spring outing, Brady came upon an accident that occurred when a couple of mules were spooked by dogs.  Remember that in the early part of the year, horses are pretty “green” no matter what their age.  It’s a particularly important time to have  your dogs under control because one darting out from a bush is all it can take for someone to be seriously injured.  When you do encounter horses on the trail, step off on the lower side as far as possible.  Being familiar with trail etiquette is important whether you are a dog walker, horse back rider, hiker or mountain biker.  Having the opportunity to enjoy open space is truly a gift and something we all have a duty to help protect!

*Staying at Blue Mountain Bed and Breakfast:  You can always opt to just sit and relax near the bed and breakfast waterfall, but if you like to explore we have lots of recommendations.  There are plenty of hiking and naturalist books to go around and we will help you find the best places to enjoy the out of doors.  If you would like to plan your trip before you get to our bed and breakfast, just give us a call (1-406-251-4457) or an email: stay@bluemountainbb.com and we will help you out.  Our AREA webpage offers many fun local excursion ideas as well.  Whether you stay with us or are a local just wanting a few tips, we are happy to help!

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