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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