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!
Winter is upon us, which means it’s officially time to unpack those cross-country skis and snowshoes! This week, a chance to break ’em in on a great winter weekend escape near Ennis!
Jack Creek Preserve
Round Trip: 2.5 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 119 feet
Directions: First, make your way to Ennis. From Missoula, that means head east on Interstate 90 through Butte, across Homestake Pass, and then, just a bit past Whitehall, you’ll exit at Cardwell and take Highway 359 south. At Harrison Mill you’ll merge onto Highway 287; continue through downtown Ennis and over the Madison River to Jeffers Road (just before the El Western Motel). Turn left here, and then left again when the road turns.
Follow the signs to the Red Diamond J Ranch – these will get you to the entrance of Jack Creek Road. Turn right on Jeffers Loop Road (there’s a white church on the corner) and then left on the same road at the T. Turn right again at Jack Creek Bench Road – do not go straight – and then follow the road left at the section turn, at the Shed Horn Ranch entrance. Continue down the hill, turning steeply to the right and then, at the bottom, stay right at the Y. Continue on this road until you reach the Lower Jack Creek gate (the gate says Moonlight Basin Ranch). Continue another four miles up Jack Creek Road; on the right you’ll see the turn for the Outdoor Education Center.
NOTE: To access the trails beyond this gate, you’ll need a code. You can get it, but you will have to first contact Jack Creek Preserve Foundation to fill out appropriate waivers and submit vehicle and driver information. This is an easy process, but allow at least 24 hours. Foundation staff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (406) 995-7880.
What to expect: With about 4,500 acres of protected habitat west of Big Sky, the Jack Creek Preserve is a key migratory corridor for wildlife. The preserve provides a vital connection between two units of Lee Metcalf Wilderness and extends critical habitat from Yellowstone National Park through the Madison Range and northward.
The preserve is managed by the Jack Creek Preserve Foundation, a local nonprofit that’s offering several miles of groomed cross country ski trails on the preserve free and open to the public for the first time in 2017
The trails are groomed weekly and well-packed, so skiers have a clear trail to follow. Backcountry or classic skis are recommended due to the varying conditions of the trail. Snowshoes are also welcome. Trail maps can be found at the trailhead or jackcreekpreserve.org. If you’re not comfortable attempting this adventure on your own, the foundation also provides free guided tours upon request.
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!