Explore Western Montana: 4 Places off the Beaten Path

Natural beauty is synonymous with the word Montana. Anywhere one ends up in this lovely state there is bound to be a mountain to hike, a river to float, or a ghost town to get into. The Treasure State surely lives up to its name in more ways than one. Growing up and exploring this state has provided many uniquely Montana moments and memories. In the following post I’ll highlight some exceptional places off the beaten path to experience the Montana that most do not see.

Trapper Peak

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One of the best and certainly highest views in the Bitteroot range usually comes with some snow. Breathtaking is an understatement when referring to both the views and the hike itself. The trail starts off in series of rather steep switchbacks, it gently ascends up the ridge afterwards until the treeline. Overall this is a moderate intensity hike for most people. Looking out onto the Bitteroot Valley and the glacial lakes below from atop this peak is surely something that everyone needs to add to their bucket-list.

Trapper’s Location

Hiking Info

 

Kootenai Creek

Kootenai1Kootenai3Kootenai creek reminds me of the good parts of the Oregon coast right here in Montana. As soon as you leave the car at the trailhead you enter this rare little slice of heaven where prominent rock faces on both sides focus one’s attention onto the swift flowing alpine creek in the bottom of the valley. The first few miles follow this creek and some side trails up the mountain provide for some great views. In the summer it’s not uncommon to find rock-climbers on these intimidating faces. Anytime of year is good for this breathtaking scenery.

Kootenai’s Location

Missoulian Article

Ajax Lake

Ajax1The road up to this lake is surely the first thing to mention. Above the lake lies an old mine and to get to that mine there is an old and very rocky road. As a kid the way up always scared me to death as the large rocks in culmination with a steep drop off always had me walking through the what ifs in my head. Rounding the last corner and finally seeing the abandoned mining cabins was always a relief, but actually seeing that crisp blue mountain lake truly made that nerve-wracking trip worthwhile. Exploring the area and what remains of the cabin and mines gives some hints as to the history of this place, but one of the bigger stories that hangs  on this mountain was the nearly fatal mountaineering accident Hank Williams Jr. suffered here. Ajax lake is certainly one of the better mountain lakes out there for its combination of fishing, beauty, and history; an unforgettable road for an unforgettable experience.

Ajax’s Location

Ajax Peak Hiking Info

Coolidge Ghost Town

This isn’t Virginia City nor Garnet, way up in the Pintler range sits a ghost town that looks like it could actually have ghosts. Houses melt into the ground and trees, while the only sound comes from the creek flowing right next to the main street. An old mining camp is the main feature here with a 100 year glimpse back into an entirely different style of living. Once you make it to the parking area the short walk follows the old road right into town. With some further exploration behind this town one will find some beautiful yet trail-less alpine lakes. Ultimately the place feels as abandoned as it looks. This is a truly authentic ghost town, waiting to be explored.coolildge1Coolidge2

Coolidge’s Location

More Information

 

 

Blog Post by Devin Carlson

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The Outdoor Life of a University of Montana Student

Attending school at the University of Montana has given me great opportunities to further academic accomplishments. But I must admit, those academic goals were not even close to the main reason I chose to go to the University of Montana in the first place. I chose the school because of all the outdoor opportunities living in the great state of Montana offers. Looking back on the past four years, it’s been pretty amazing to be able to call this state my home and to have so many amazing outdoor resources available at my fingertips. This blog post will take you through an average year of what it’s like to be an outdoor fanatic attending school at the University of Montana.

  1. Winter (Late January-Early March)

Winter as a student living in Missoula is pretty sweet. Unlike many northern states, the days in the valley are often mild enough to fly fish, hike, bike, or do many other outdoor activities. And for those of you who love the snow and cold, there are four great ski resorts within an hour and a half drive from Missoula. Lost Trail Powder Mountain is my favorite – they boast upwards of 300″ of snow every year. One of the great things about Montana is that it provides a great home base for road trips around the Northwest. This past February, trips to the Olympic Pennisula, WA and Fernie, British Columbia were taken.

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2. Spring (Mid March-Late May)

Spring is a great time to spend time outdoors in Montana. You will find seemingly everyone in Missoula coming out of their winter hibernation to enjoy the beauty of Montana in the spring time. Personally, this is my favorite time of year to fly fish. Most rivers in western and southwestern Montana boast great fly fishing for wild trout this time of year.

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DSC_2533_2-Winter can always rear its ugly head during the Spring!

DSC_1798-And the next day it’s sunny and 70 degrees.

IMG_0209-Turkey hunting is also on the menu in the spring!

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3. Summer (Early June-Late August)

Summer in Montana is in my opinion like nowhere else. Because of the lack of humidity, I don’t know where you can find more comfortable summertime weather than in Montana. For me, this season is dominated by guiding fly fisherman, hiking the mountains scouting for elk, and just enjoying the great weather.

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The West beckons, whether for riding, fishing or sightseeing.

 

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4. Fall (Early September-late December)

All I can say is Fall is by far my favorite season in Montana. It is the time to stock the freezers with wild game for the winter ahead, and to enjoy the vibrant changes of the seasons. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let these photos do the talking.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed these photos illustrating what it’s like to live in Montana throughout the year. I consider myself extremely lucky to have been able to go to school here at the University of Montana and have all of this out my back door.

-Trevor Anderson