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 Craig sends us south to the Warm Springs area for a simple in-between seasons hike – a great chance to catch the fall colors and do some bird-watching!
Warm Springs Ponds Wildlife Management Area
Round Trip: 2.6 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 115 feet
Directions: From Missoula, head east on I-90 towards Butte – but take Exit #201 at Warm Springs. At the bottom of the off-ramp, turn right and a kiosk with a map of the WMA will be on your right.
What to expect: Formerly these tailings ponds collected pollution from the Butte mines before it reached the Clark Fork River; now the reclaimed Superfund area is a pleasant place to walk on the dikes between ponds – a place to take a break on a long drive, get closer to the ducks and enjoy majestic views of the Pintler Range and Flint Hills.
There are many miles of roads and dikes in the area, so be sure to check out the kiosks in the parking areas for maps.
To access the two loops in the northeast corner of the area, head east from the interstate exit, cross over the Clark Fork River, and turn right into the Eagle Access parking area.
On foot, just follow the road south and just past the large building take the third road to the west, which leads along the northern edge of the northernmost pond and then circles back to the north around a meadow. There will be fewer ducks to spot along this route, but sandhill cranes hang out in the ditch and field.
After completing the first loop, continue south and loop around the second pond on a berm that offers water views on both sides. The views of the Pintlers and the Flint Hills from the east side of the ponds is stunning, especially when the mountains are snow-capped.
TIP: For a much longer hike and less birding opportunities, circumnavigate the entire area on roads, which is about a nine-mile loop.
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 9:50 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!