Welcome to the Trail Well Traveled!
Each Friday, in partnership with Montana Wilderness Association and Bob Ward’s we will feature a new western Montana trail and then give one lucky listener some cool goodies to help them embark on their journey!
Today we highlight a trail that rewards hikers with a 360-degree view of the Bitterroot Crest and surrounding ranges.
Nez Perce Pass to Castle Rock Trail #16
This beautiful climb ends with a fun scramble up a pile of rocks to the summit, making it rewarding for both kids and grownups!
Roundtrip: 5.8 miles
Directions: From Darby drive four miles south on US 93, turn right onto State Hwy 473 (West Fork Road) and drive 14.2 miles along the West Fork of the Bitterroot River.
Turn right onto Nez Perce Road just past the West Fork
Ranger Station and then follow it almost 16 miles from pavement to graded gravel and back to pavement again, through a couple hairpin turns and swtichbacks, until you arrive at Nez Perce Pass.
What to expect: The large, developed trailhead includes a well maintained outhouse, stock unloading ramp, hitch rails, and a heli-pad.
The trail begins just beyond the trailhead sign, steadily climbing the ridge about 400 feet in just under 0.5 miles. This section of the trail is lightly forested, but offers some glimpses of Castle Peak and the Bitterroot peaks.
After this first 0.5 miles, look for a junction to the left. There is a “Castle Rock” sign on a tree about 20-30 feet down the trail, but the junction is otherwise unsigned. Turn left towards Castle Rock, ascending steeply for a short distance before the trail opens into a series of small meadows. For the next 2 miles, the trail generally follows the ridgeline with some gradual ups and downs along the way, passing a handful of old growth Douglas firs. The understory includes lupine and abundant beargrass.
Arriving at the rocky base of Castle Rock, continue below the base on the trail for another 0.1 miles to the southwest shoulder of the Castle and look for cairns on the left marking a footpath to the top of Castle Rock. This final ascent begins through the trees before the final 0.1 mile climb to the top of boulder and scree strewn Castle Rock.
From the summit, enjoy views in all directions including a look into the heart of the Blue Joint Wilderness Study Area, as well as views to the Beaverhead Range, Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness, the Bitterroots’ rocky crest, and to Ida
ho’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.
Tip: Take a few minutes to read the interpretive signs, which feature Doris Milner, a lifetime member of the Montana Wilderness Association, passionate angler, and champion of the Selway River!
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!