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!
Last week we highlighted the easy navigability of the association’s online online hiking directory – especially it’s search features, which allow you to explore potential hikes by region, season, surface area and “feature.” For this coming Memorial Day weekend Craig had a hankering for a waterfall. So he clicked the box next to “waterfall” and found several within a short driving distance from Missoula – including one that also boasts ample spring wildflowers.
Dunham Creek Trail #400
Wander along a beautiful creek lined with giant Ponderosas, rocky cliffs – and all the spring waterfalls and wildflowers you can enjoy.
Roundtrip: 6.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 875 feet
Directions: From Missoula, head east on I-90 to Bonner and then head east on Highway 200. When you arrive at Ovando, turn north onto Monture Creek Road. Nearly 7 miles down that road you’ll keep straight on Forest Road #477 and then bear right following the sign towards Seeley Lake, Cottonwood Lakes and Monture Guard Station. When you get to the turnoff to the station, keep to the left and then at almost 8 miles you’ll bear right onto Forest Road #4388, Dunham Creek Road.
After 13.1 miles since departing Highway 200 you’ll arrive at the unmarked trailhead. There’s a wide pullout on the right big enough for trailers and space on the left for passenger cars.
What to expect: The hike begins on the left behind several large boulders. It begins following an old roadbed through a previously cut area. At 0.3 miles, reach the junction with Trail #374 to Nome Point (departs to the right). Stay straight/left on Dunham Creek Trail #400. Shortly after this intersection, the trail leaves the old roadbed and enters the shade of giant Ponderosas. A little over 3/4ths of a mile, you’ll have some of your first big views across the Dunham Creek valley, and you’ll hear the rushing waters of Dunham Creek below.
The trail contours above Dunham Creek, passing through open forest that’s filled with wildflowers in spring and afire with reds and yellows in fall. Look to your right often, where you’ll have glimpses of the rocky cliffs above the trail.
At 2.0 miles, the trail crosses a cascading waterfall (expect to get your feet wet in spring). As you approach the waterfall, the trail seems to fork. Stay left, choosing the lower option, which provides a better crossing of the falls. (The upper/right route is old trail.) For those looking for a shorter option, this could be a good turnaround point, though you’d miss the cliffs a closer look at Dunham Creek.
At 2.9 miles the trail crosses through a wide open meadow with beautiful views of the cliffs to the right, and multiple cascading waterfalls in the spring.
The trail climbs ever so slightly for the final 1/2 mile before reaching your destination. Here, glacier lilies abound in spring, the creek narrows, and rushes through the dark rocks along the trail. This makes a great destination to stop for a while to enjoy views of the stream before returning back to the trailhead.
For those looking for a longer hike, the trail continues several miles further along Dunham Creek.
Tip: Consider extending your trip with an overnight stay at the guard station. For details on the facility, follow this link.
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!