People choose to travel to and live in
the Bitterroot Valley for many of the same reasons. Here you
are close to the splendor of natural beauty. Wilderness is quite
literally three miles from the edge of town and when someone
tells you they can be fishing five minutes after leaving work,
they’re not exaggerating.
Here are a few ideas for taking advantage
of the best Montana has to offer while you’re staying at the
The Bitterroot Valley offers some of the
most diverse hiking experiences in the West.
On the west side of the valley, craggy
mountain peaks and rugged canyons are the gateway to the Selway-Bitterroot
These canyons offer easy, short hikes with
mystical views of waterfalls, towering cliffs, and lush green
forests, or longer challenging hikes to the tops of peaks several
miles from the trailhead. When hiking the trails expect to see
moose, mountain goats, deer, elk and a variety of birds.
At the heads of these canyons is the divide
between Idaho and Montana and the heart of the Selway-Bitterroot
Wilderness, which is part of the largest contiguous piece of
wilderness in the lower 48. This is truly the last wild place.
When staying at the loft, you are only
minutes away from two of the most popular trailheads in the
valley: Blodgett and Canyon Creek.
One of my favorite aspects of living in
the Bitterroot Valley is how easy it is to get away. In
the summertime, when the days are Arctic in length (as Norman
Maclean said), the best part of the day comes after 5 o’clock.
On both the west and east side of the valley
are a plethora of trails that can shuttle you quickly away from
the busy world and into the woods. The number of potential day
or evening hikes are simply too many to list. Discovering
them takes a little acquaintance with a map and a good pair
One of the quickest and easiest afternoon
hikes is Soft Rock, east of Corvallis. The east side of the
valley is more arid and open. The trail at Soft Rock takes
you through sagebrush flats and ponderosa pine draws, before
it climbs up the open face of Chaffin Butte, home to Corvallis’
famous “C”. The steep hike is a good workout, but only
takes a couple of hours to complete. From the top you can see
farmers cutting hay, sprinklers watering acres of alfalfa and
the river bottom cottonwoods winding their way north and south.
To get there, take Willow Creek Road east
out of Corvallis to Summerdale Road and take a left. Follow
Summerdale less than a mile and then take a right on Soft Rock
Road. The trailhead is located at some old corrals.
Another good evening hike is the Blodgett
Canyon overlook. This short trail begins at the Canyon
Creek trailhead just west of Hamilton. The overlook trail heads
north from the Canyon Creek Trailed and immediately winds up
the ridge that divides Blodgett and Canyon Creek drainages.
The reward for this short hike is a beautiful view of the Bitterroot’s
most popular creek, with its shear canyon walls and majestic
For a more challenging day hike head south
of Darby. Trapper Peak is the highest mountain in the
Bitterroots at over 10,000 feet. The trail to the top is about
4 miles long and gains more than a 1,000 feet per mile. But
the view from the top is heavenly. Make sure to bring
plenty of water and give yourself most of a day to get the hike
in. To get to the trailhead, follow the highway up the
West Fork of the Bitterroot River for about 15 miles until you
seen a sign directing you to Trapper Peak, not Trapper Creek.
Another popular day hike in the Bitterroots
is St. Mary’s Peak, west of Stevensville. The trail is a moderate
hike and from the trailhead to the summit of the peak is about
4.5 miles. On a clear day from St. Mary’s you can see deep into
Idaho to the west and north to the Mission Mountain Range and
Rattlesnake Wilderness Area outside of Missoula. To get to the
trailhead, turn on St. Mary’s Road off Highway 93 just south
of Stevensville and follow the signs.
These three hikes are a good start, but
there are so many other. For more information, contact
the Forest Service in Hamilton at 363-7100.
Here are a few Web sites to provide more
information about hiking in the area.
This site will give you an idea of the
diversity of hikes in the Bitterroot Valley, plus contact information
to find out more.
This article highlights one of the best
local hiking resources, Mort Arkava’s book “Hiking the Bitterroots”
Here are a couple of articles on Mort Arkava
and his hiking recommendations.
In the fall, a short hike can reward you
with a wonderful view.
With a variety of habitats, the Bitterroot
Valley offers a diversity birding opportunities.
The river bottom and wetland habitats provide
a home for bald eagles, great blue herons, nesting ducks, cranes,
swans, woodpeckers and osprey.
Above the valley floor on the east side
is a divers upland and sagebrush habitat, with a variety of
songbirds and raptors.
On the west side, birders will find a more
typical pine forest habitat with a unique blend of owls, woodpeckers
In addition to all this, many areas in
the Bitterroot Valley are going through a natural transition
brought on by the devastating wildfires of the summer of 2000.
That summer, during a two-month time span, over 350,000 acres
burned in and around the valley. As these areas began recovering,
bird species moved in.
In the burned areas you can find black-backed
woodpeckers, Lewis’s woodpecker, MacGillivray’s warbler and
The valley is also blessed with two wildlife
The Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge
is operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is located
just north of Stevensville.
The Teller Wildlife Refuge is a private,
non-profit refuge located just north of Corvallis.
Both offer a wide variety of birding and
nature viewing opportunities.
The Bitterroot is also home to a unique
trail system. The Bitterroot Birding and Nature Trail began
in the summer of 2005 and provides people with 25 sites around
the valley that offer a variety of birding experiences.
For a map of the sites, check out:
Here are a few articles from the local
newspaper about birding in the area.
Great blue herons return!
Spring is a great time to see swans in
Bald eagles are common in the valley.
Lee Metcalf has miles of trails and birding
Wild turkeys have also made a come back
in the valley.
The areas burned in 2000 provide habitat
for unique birds.
The burned areas are also providing researcher
a unique look into how birds recover after a fire.
Mountain biking is a growing passion in
the Bitterroot Valley. Thousands of miles of trails are open
for the pastime, not to mention the quick and easy availability
of forest roads.
Riders of every skill level can enjoy biking
in the Bitterroot. If you want a leisurely ride, the mountain
roads can be a great escape. If you want a expert-level
ride, trails in the Sapphire Mountains on the east side of the
valley will push the most seasoned rider to their limits.
The local bike shops are the best source
of information about mountain biking in the valley.
Call Chad DeVall at Red Barn Bicycles:
http://www.redbarnbicycles.com/home.html, or Randy Leavell
at Valley Bicycles and Ski: (406) 363-4428, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out these articles about mountain
biking from the local newspaper:
This article outlines one of the more challenging
rides in the area:
Mountain biking has been an up and coming
sport in the valley for a few years. This article tells why.
This is a profile article about Red Barn
The same trails available for hiking into
the wilderness are also available for access by horseback.
It’s not uncommon to meet trail riders far back in the wilderness.
And as more people desire to see the wonders of the backcountry
from a horse, more opportunity is being made available.
Discover Bitterroot Valley
Montana Activities, Sports and Things To Do
Camping | Canoeing
| Conservation |
Cross Country Skiing
| Downhill Skiing |
Fly Fishing |
Hiking | Horse
Care | Hunting |
Look Outs |