Most people don't choose to live in the Bitterroot Valley for the great jobs and the economy. They live here because of the lifestyle afforded by being surrounded by mountains and wilderness. The mountains and wilderness are the attraction for the large number of visitors to the Bitterroot Valley as well.
Most hikers and backpackers dream of week long trips into the mountains but work and other obligations usually keep such trips to a minimum. Consequently, day hikes are the norm for many. Here are five fantastic hikes in the Bitterroot Mountains, west of the Bitterroot Valley.
We wanted to keep the list to 5, but if you are looking for more, try Ward Mountain and St. Mary's Peak trails.
Top 5 Day Hikes
- Baker Lake Trail: This is a steep hike but the trail is well defined and the lake is only about 1.5 miles from the trailhead. The alpine setting is breathtaking and the fishing can be superb. You can also continue on to Middle and Gem Lakes. The trip to Gem Lake is well worth the effort (less than a mile) as Gem Lake lives up to its name.
- Mill Creek Trail: This is a well defined trail with minimal elevation changes and some excellent picnic locations. About 3 miles in there is a waterfall above a deep pool that kids and pets will love.
- Bear Creek Trail: Bear Creek is an easy trail that gets heavy use. You might consider avoiding this trail on a weekend. It is a wonderful hike and has excellent access to the creek in several places. There are terrific picnic locations near the falls about 1.5 miles from the trailhead. Bear Creek offers good fishing and beautiful scenery.
- Camas Lakes Trail: You can hike to several lakes from the trailhead. There are some short, steep climbs but overall the trail is easy. There is a junction to Kidney Lake a little over 2 miles in and the lake is about 1 mile down from that junction. Lower Camas Lake isn't far beyond the Kidney Lake junction. Middle Lake comes next and Upper Camas Lake is a little short of 4 miles from the trailhead. All four lakes offer good fishing and campsite spots for those who chose to stay.
- Sawtooth Creek Trail: The trail swings around Goat Mountain and is not very interesting for the first 2 miles. At 3 miles the trail crosses Sawtooth Creek on a log (you can wade in low water) and begins to become faint and hard to follow. There is good access to the creek, which holds good numbers of Westslope Cutthroat trout. There are also acres of mountain huckleberry patches through this section. You can begin finding huckleberries at about two miles from the trailhead and continue finding large patches until the trail enters some boulder fields about 5 miles from the trailhead.