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Montana Hiking Trails

Montana hiking trails are fantastic places to become one with nature.

Kenai Nature Trail: A Visual Day Hike

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Nestled in the little town of Stevensville, Montana is a cool nature reserve called Lee Metcalf. The Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 as a cover habitat for migratory birds. A series of impoundments and dikes were constructed for wildlife water management. Today, there are so many diverse habitats within the refuge. There are 37 species of mammals, 17 species of reptiles and over 235 different species of migratory birds. The Kenai Nature Trail is a lovely day hike of around 2.5 miles round trip, approximately a 1.5 hour day hike on level ground. The trail begins at the visitor center and heads north on a gravel trail through some riparian vegetation. Then as it opens, you will experience a chain of ponds and wetlands leading down a ways to the Bitterroot River. The reserve has benches and viewing platforms all during the hike. There are also photo blinds, and a spotting scope. In the ponds you will see muskrats, osprey, turtles, frogs, great blue herons, and bald eagles. Being in the Bitterroot valley, you are also privilege to take in the beautiful majestic Bitterroot Mountains and the rolling Sapphire Mountains (This whole area for miles and miles is loaded with hikes). As you walk along the path, you will cross over the ponds by wooden bridge into an observation blind on the edge of the pond.asas These bridges are scattered throughout the meandering hike. At any given moment, you may see the herds of elk and deer which flock the fields around there. These ponds are so interesting to stop and explore in. Children will want to seek out the little reptiles which have habitats in the ponds. As said, this is a family proactive activity, giving the little ones and even pets, room to move and play. Bring your picnic, binoculars, camera and fishing poles to one of the last best places. Newcomers will spend a lifetime discovering little gems like Lee Metcalf Refuge all throughout Montana State. While you are here, check out the little town of Stevensville. You will be surprised by the authentic Norman Rockwell feel of small town goodness. How to get there: Take highway 92 out of Missoula towards Stevensville. At the Stevensville turnoffs (Highway 269) take a left and continue only 1.3 mile towards Eastside Highway (Highway 203). Turns left, and go travel 0.2 miles to Wildfowl Lane. Turn left again. Drive 4 miles to the visitor center parking lot. If you are coming from Hamilton, then the Stevensville turnoff is approximately 19 miles north on Highway 93 going towards Missoula.

Giant Springs Heritage State Park

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Along the Missouri river in a sleepy little town lies the world’s shortest river. Within Great Falls, Montana is a quaint and beautiful area known simply as Giant Springs to the locals. It is a photograph waiting to happen at every angle. The shortest river in the world runs into this sparkling, ominous pool of life in motion. It is a youthful moment as you cheer on a beaver, or watch tiny little creatures clamor around this multi colored rock formations reflecting back from the pools. A bridge offers up even a different view between water’s edges and rolling green park hills where families wander with their picnic goodies. Where you stand at this moment you will notice almost any activity is possible here. Fishing on the Missouri river is known to pull in some typical hauls, yet some strange ones too. The Missouri river is known for the hard- to- get sturgeon; as once even Jacques Cousteau tried. If you would rather just feed or watch fish, then the fish hatchery at the side entrance of Giant Springs Park welcomes you. Some of these fish have homed here for a long time, with their size and swiftness to grab a bite all in check. Giant Springs offers up some great history and information on both the park and the hatchery.
Perhaps you wish to bike or hike the area, this is optional use of Giant Springs. You will see many people biking and walking the numerous trails available. Pet owners love to let their dogs run the trails here. If you wish just to walk the ponds and picnic, there are some amazing picnic areas located right above the little ponds. gspark
Probably the most difficult thing about Giant Springs Park and Hatchery is finding it. Although Great Falls Montana isn’t a big town, unless you’re a local you won’t know the easy shortcuts to the park. Great Falls can be a confusing little town to navigate. Both roads leading into this thriving windy city will put you on 10th Ave. South. At the crossroad of 10th Ave. South and 32nd St. you will want to trek on down 32nd St. until you meet River Road. Take a right at this point. There will be a green sign to help you along the riverbank drive. This is the local’s directions. If you happen to go in the opposite direction and cross Smelter Avenue, it will throw you a left leading to a wonderful and fun duck pond called Gibson Park. This is an advisable ending to your time at Giant Springs Park. People love this enduring pond of geese, swans and ducks that walk right up to you for a treat. There is also music, food, sports, and activities happening here. The two parks experienced, make for a great memory of the Great Falls area. Families will talk for a long time after of their day.

Ninepipe Day Hike

Each way you turn, a picture perfect moment.
Each way you turn, a picture perfect moment.

Montana is all about backpacking and hiking. It is on these paths and these mountains there is connection. We need the wandering, the exploration, and mostly the fresh air of freedom. Weekend pioneers realize the power of hiking and are always on the lookout for uncharted territories.
There is an exceptional day hike located in Northwest Montana near Ronan. The Ninepipe area lies on both sides of Highway 93 and 212, bordered by a few county roads. This Waterfowl Production and Wildlife Management area is 45 miles north of Missoula Montana. Signed parking spots are scattered, just walk in a bit and you will have arrived in the middle of some extremely scenic moments. There is an abundance of birds at all times and quite a variety of them. If you love bird watching, then prepare to see pelicans, eagles, grebes, coots, snow geese, hawks, owls and avocets. About 200 bird species have been recorded. Duck Road offers 2 miles of pothole ponds for viewing. The background setting is sensory perfection of the Mission Mountains. This grassland and wetland complex contains up to 800 glacial potholes and a 1,770 acre reservoir. In the winter, there is a superb population of raptors. A paved trail and access road lead into the depths of the wetlands. The trail is barrier free.
The Ninepipe Research Center is also situated in this valley in Western Montana. They center much research on owls and habitat. What makes this whole area so spectacular aside from the Wetlands hike, the 1,770 acre reservoir, the birds, and the Crisp Mission Mountains is… this is not all. This would seem to be enough for an avid outdoor lover. Yet surrounding the center is the Wildlife refuge. This is not a developed refuge, but a natural existing complex which homes Bison. For decades, these bison have free ranged here. Deer and elk also roam along the refuge, as does the occasional grizzly or black bear. The Ninepipe region is a fascinating place for those who deeply wish to fill their heads with nature’s best. The wildlife corridor disperses some of the best beasts and birds to be seen in Montana at one time. It is almost guaranteed you will be overcome at some point with elation due to the interaction between man and the wild. Take a camera.
Take the drive North of Missoula; look for the signs between St. Ignatius and Ronan. If you look to your right and see a gorgeous trail of jagged, reach-for-the-sky Mountains, you know in the right direction. On the east side of the reservoir off of Highway 93, and about three quarters of a mile in is the 212 junction. Begin here.
And when you are done hiking, take the long way home…head around the other side to the bison range. You will see them from the road, follow the sign. Now, this is Montana.turtles

Morrell Lake and Falls: Day Hikes in Seeley

morrellfalsIn Montana’s deep reservoir of riches, Seeley Lake is one of the favorites. Seeley Lake is located on the Western side of Montana in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. This popular destination offers endless recreational avenues. The reason for this location being so desired by all is because this area is called the Clearwater Chain-of-Lakes. Amazingly so is 24 lakes in Clearwater Valley. All are easily accessed aside off of Montana State Highway 83 with developed campgrounds in place.
Placid and Jocko Lake residing nearby, there are so many hiking spots circling around all three Lakes. One is particular, known to Montanan’s as the best day hike near Seeley is Morrell Lake and falls. This gentle hike is a 2.7 mile hikes through Lodge pole Pines, and by 23 acres of Morrell Lake finishing up at the historic series of Morrell Waterfalls. The beginning of the trail is flat through the lodge pole, and then the remainder of forest hike leaves way to a mixture of pine, larch, spruce and fir trees. Wildlife is abundant. Be prepared to see a variety of wildlife like beaver, elk, mountain lions, moose, bobcats, and deer. As in many Montana wildernesses, you also must be prepared for bears. This area is home to both black and grizzly bears. Before you even arrive at the falls, you will hear the roar of the water as the hikes winds around the marsh. Then in the clearing, the beauty of the 90 foot falls will unfold before you.
For the Morrell Falls day hike you have the option of walking, mountain biking or even horseback riding. Close to the trailhead is parking for vehicles, as well as undeveloped campsites for those wishing to make it an overnight trip. For those with an enduring spirit there are more difficult trails which branch off from the falls. Grizzly Basin Trail #509 climbs into the Swan Mountains along the east fork of Morrell Creek. This trail is not maintained and runs 6 miles long. Even a more primitive trail is Morrell Creek Trail #383 which takes off from Trail #30 and extends up the west fork of Morrell for 3.5 miles.
To get to this breathtaking hike, travel a half mile north of the town of Seeley staying on Highway 83; turn east (right) on Morrell Creek Road. There will be a green street sign. This becomes Forest Road #477 Cottonwood Lakes Road. After 1.1 miles, turn left on West Morrell Road #4353 for around 6 miles. Turn right on Pyramid Pass Road #4381, go less than .25 miles and take a left on Morrell Falls Road #4364. One more mile and you are at the trailhead! You will see the parking and camping area.

one with nature
one with nature

If you are new to the fun of the hike or wilderness exploration, this is the perfect place to begin. At every turn of this recreational area you will discover more and more to do. In a short time, you will understand why this part of Montana rules the heart.