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 week, we send you on a moderately strenuous hike to the crest of the Big Snowy Mountains and its glorious Ice Caves.
From the summit, enjoy views down onto wild Bunker Creek and across the Bob Marshall Wilderness – and with any luck, you’ll be surrounded by wildflowers the entire way!
Roundtrip: 10 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,500 feet
Directions: From Missoula, head first to Seeley Lake via Highways 200 and 83. From there, expect another 90 minutes road time to get to the Napa Point trailhead – about half of which is on 83 and the other half on gravel roads. (The trailheads is only 12 miles from the highway, but the going is slow!)
The turnoff from Highway 83 is between mile markers 58 and 59. It’s called Goat Creek Road, and you’ll turn right there. Head another 4.7 miles to Napa Point Road, and then follow it about 7 miles to the trailhead.
What to expect: After starting through a intensely green natural garden, the trail quickly climbs to a ridge line. There you’ll enjoy inspiring views of the Missions and the Swans. Swan Peak is the second highest point in the Swans at 9,289 and comes into view after about 1.5 miles. (Holland Peak, about 15 miles south is the highest Swan Peak at 9,356) After about 2.5 miles the trail descends to intersect with the Alpine Trail #7. It will take most people about two and a half hours to get to the junction of Napa Point Trail and the Alpine Trail.
There are some thickly vegetated sections that include huckleberries and other bear food. It’s a good idea to make extra noise as you approach and travel through areas with poor visibility. Let the bears know you’re coming and they’ll vacate asap.
At the intersection with the Alpine Trail #7, turn north onto the Alpine Trail. Follow signs leading you to Inspiration Pass and Warrior Mountain. Note: Inspiration Point is the wrong way, Inspiration Pass is the right way. Along the Alpine Trail you’ll enjoy classic Northern Rockies landscape. In about one mile you’ll come to Inspiration Pass and in another mile you’ll be on the approach to Warrior Mountain.
While there are signs telling you how many miles to Warrior Mountain, there is no sign telling you when you are there. Instead there is a clearly visible sign with a large X on the right side of the trail about two miles north of the junction of the Napa Point Trail and the Alpine Trail. At the X it’s time to leave the trail and go cross country. From the X the summit is mostly east and the route apparent. The only challenge is trying to not step on wildflowers as you head to the summit.
From the summit you’ll be looking over some of the most productive wildlife habitat in America. Wolverines, grizzlies, mountain goats, and elk all call the land before you home. If the sky is clear you will easily see peaks in Glacier. Hungry Horse Reservoir is to your left and easy to identify. You will see some big peaks in the Bob. Most of the distant land in front of you is part of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. Surprisingly the land directly in front of you is not.
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!