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!
An easy-to-moderate climb to the crest of the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area, where you’ll be surrounded by rocky peaks, alpine larch and views in all directions!
Elevation Gain: 1,222 feet
Directions: From Missoula, take Highway 93 south. About 1.5 miles past Hamilton you’ll turn left at the blinking light onto Montana 38/Skalkaho Highway.
Take that paved highway 13.4 miles, and then shortly after Bear Campground turn right onto Skalkaho Rye Road #75. This road beings with a gravel cover, with lots of camping options along the way, but then deteriorates. It’s passable in your average passenger car, but expect to take it slow.
After 9.2 miles, bear left to stay on Road #75 – and then drive another 10.5 miles to the trailhead. You’ll discover a wide parking area there with a stock ramp to the right of the road.
In all, you should expect it to take about an hour and a half from Hamilton.
What to expect: From the trailhead parking area, cross the road to the start of Mosquito Meadows Trail #102. The trail is fairly level at the beginning, contouring through the forest just up-slope from the road. Pass through the lodgepole, larch, subalpine fir, and spruce forest and hike by a couple open meadows with scenic, craggy backdrops.
At 2.4 miles you’ll arrive at Mosquito Meadow. Turn right on Bitterroot Divide Trail #313 and follow it for a half mile, gradually climbing to the 8,400-foot pass.
Just before the pass, turn right along the ridge – picking up the trail to the top of the Rooster Comb. The very first portion of this trail along the ridge is faint, though it quickly becomes quite clear and well defined among the rocky ridge. If you don’t see the first portion of the trail, simply turn right and follow the rocky crest of the ridge, keeping an eye to your right for the well defined stone path. Follow the ridge/path to the summit of the 8,600-foot Rooster Comb, where there is a broad flat meadow (a surprise atop the otherwise rocky ridge) surrounded by a forest of alpine larch. Enjoy views of nearly the full length of the Bitterroot Mountains, the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness to the east, and the crest of the Sapphires Wilderness Study Area.
Tip: As an alternative, if you instead turn left on Bitterroot Divide Trail #313 you can hike to Kent Lake – a great day-hike destination or overnight camp spot!
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!