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, Craig sends us to Ennis’ version of the Boulder Batholiths – an afternoon trek through a beautiful part of Montana that typically has a lot more sunshine than Missoula.
In the spring of 2015, 15 miles of bike trails were proposed in the southern section of this BLM area. This hike takes you on just a portion of those trails along interesting rock formations with great views of Ennis Lake and the Madison and Tobacco Root Ranges.
Total Elevation Gain: 1,045 feet
Directions: From Missoula, head east on I-90 to Three Forks and then exit south onto Highway 287. A little over 30 miles south is Norris and the intersection with Highway 84. Turn west (right) here.
About 3.2 miles down this gravel road you’ll pass a cattle feeding area and plenty of roaming chickens – turn left at the two-story building, and then continue up a steep hill and to the signs that mark the entrance to state and BLM land – about six miles total from Highway 287.
After another mile, when you see a fence, a cattle guard and a house, pull off and park.
What to expect: Located between the communities of Norris and McAllister in Madison County, this recreation area provides opportunities for mountain biking, rock climbing, camping, rock hounding and hiking.
From the parking area in front of the cattle guard, take the steep road east. At its summit, you may notice a wide, worn path off to the right to an area called “Burnt Rock”. You can climb this to get to some views, but the upper reaches of the hill are in private land. Continue on the road, past this area.
When the road straightens out and parallels a fence, duck under the fence. Don’t worry, it’s BLM land on both sides. Now you’ll need to use the GPS track or a printed copy of the map to follow the route as it climbs up through the meadows, then down a gully, and turns west, skirts below the rock formations, then doubles back.
The lush green area farther down the gully is a spring, but it is on private land. Skirt around it, gradually climbing the hill to the southeast, then head northeast on the road. Eventually, you’ll turn northwest and get back to the road you originally came in on, but you’ll have to crawl through the fence again to get to it.
At one time, there were 16 mining claims in this area, with the largest being the Revenue Mine. Quartz, talc, lead, copper, silver and gold were all found here. The hamlet of Sterling (the old building with no glass in the windows that you passed on the ride in) housed 600 people and was where the ore was milled. The BLM land is still interspersed with privately owned mining claims but you’re more apt to see rock climbers or horseback riders in the area today.
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!