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 one lucky listener some cool goodies to help them embark on their journey!
Ski to Marshall Lake
Great views of the Swan Range and abundant wildlife tracks make this moderate ski into the Missions the perfect way to spend half a day!
Total Elevation Gain: 600 feet
Directions: From Missoula, head east on Interstate 90, exiting at Bonner and heading east on Highway 200 through Potomac to the Clearwater Junction. At the junction (notice the big cow) turn north on Montana 83.
Continue past Seeley Lake another 9.5 miles and then turn left onto Westfork Clearwater Road. (Hint: If you make it to Lake Alva, you’ve gone too far.) Drive west on Westfork Clearwater Road another .6 miles and park near the sign that welcomes you to the Marshall Creek Wildlife Management Area.
What to expect: The route, which starts at 4,200 feet, is open to all forms of winter recreation and is groomed periodically during the winter. That said, it’s not one of the more popular snowmobiling areas in the area, so it is unlikely you’ll encounter much traffic.
After skiing 1.3 miles you’ll will see a sign (unless it’s buried by snow) announcing you are in bull trout country. At this point, you’ve already climbed 300 feet – or about half the total elevation gain.
Just after the bull trout sign you’ll see another sign (unless also buried by snow) with an arrow pointing towards Marshall Lake. Follow that arrow left to a bridge over the West Fork of the Clearwater River.
1.8 miles from the parking area the route makes a sharp left turn and becomes a little steeper. You are now at 4,600 feet.
2.3 miles from the parking area views of the Swan Range and the valley between the Swans and Missions appear. You are now at 4,700 feet.
3.4 miles from the parking area another sign points towards Marshall Lake. There will likely be tracks to follow if signs are buried in snow.
At 4.7 miles you may see Marshall Creek to your left unless it’s completely under snow and ice. You are now at 4,750 feet.
At 5 miles you may see tracks leading left – but keep going straight! You are almost there!
At 5.1 miles, veer to the left and you’ll see Marshall Lake in about 75 yards, or you can veer to the right and ski as far as you like with Marshall Lake to your left.
Marshall Lake is at 4,800 feet. You’ll enjoy the scenery even more knowing it’s almost all down hill to the parking area!
Tip: Snowshoe hare tracks will likely be abundant, as will occasional deer and elk tracks – so keep your eyes peeled! You are also in prime lynx country, so with some luck you might see their tracks – as well as signs of mountain lion and wolf!
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!