Welcome to the Trail Well Traveled!
Each Friday, in partnership with Montana Wilderness Association we will feature a new western Montana trail and then give you some helpful details and tips to get on your way!
This weekend, celebrate the arrival of fall with a traipse through the Cabinet Mountains, where the changing season transforms ground cover (including huckleberries) into a brilliant red.
Round Trip: 9 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 2,485 feet
Directions: From Missoula, head west on Interstate 90 and then north on Highway 93 at the Wye. You’ll follow the highway all the way up through the Mission Mountains, past Flathead Lake and then, just south of Kalispell, turn left (west) onto the “alternative route” of Highway 93. Turn left again onto Highway 2 headed towards Libby.
After about 58 miles, you’ll come across Silver Butte Road where the highway starts a wide turn to the north. Turn left on this road for about 10 miles, and then look for Bear Lakes trailhead on the right.
The access road is short and leads into a power line corridor. From there, head down Road #148 another mile southwest until you reach the Baree Creek trailhead.
What to expect: This loop can be done in either direction, but is described here from the Baree Creek Trailhead, which offers a more gradual ascent. The loop finishes at the Bear Lakes trailhead, which is a steep descent. This clockwise route takes you up through a change in forest habitat types.
From the trailhead, begin the gradual ascent. At the short Baree Lake side trail, it’s worth the 1/4 mile detour to see the lake and rest for lunch or a snack. Continuing beyond the lake you ascend to a predominantly open ridge where you intersect the Cabinet Divide Trail (#360) that you will then follow to its junction with Trail #63 that cuts below a ridge point and leads to Bear Lakes trail (#178). There are opportunities off this trail to drop into one of several of the Bear lakes.
The upper and mid parts of Trail #178 descend through an old burn that is now quite grown up, with massive fir and larch trees that survived and thrived after the last fire.
It is possible to do the shuttle between trailheads via mountain bike. Rather than bike the Forest Service road, ditch your bike at the Bear Lakes trailhead and then ride the power line corridor road back up to the Baree Creek trailhead. This bike route is much faster, shorter, and easier than the road.
Learn more about this trail, file your own trip report and photos, or check out some other great hikes at hikewildmontana.org. And don’t forget to tune in to the Trail 103.3 each Friday at 9:45 am for the next featured trail and your chance to win!
Big thanks to Rangitsch Bros RV for sponsoring the Trail Well Traveled. Proudly serving Missoula for over 56 years, whatever camper best suits your needs Rangitsch Bros has got it!