Day Hikes around Missoula, Montana
by Robert Stone (Day Hike Books)
© Robert Stone/Day Hike Books. All Rights Reserved.
Great moderate hike/backpack into Montana's beautiful Bitterroot Mountains. This trail is described as "heavily used", but that is a relative term. My wife and I found the trail fairly heavily overgrown and it was difficult to see our feet in some places.
We hiked to the North Kootenai Lake - about 11 miles from the trailhead. The first three miles to the wilderness boundary was fairly easy, but increased in difficulty from there on. The USGS topo map that I bought was outdated. It shows the trail crossing Kootenai Creek two times at lower elevations. Actually the trail went up the north ridge, and only requires crossing once near a great waterfall.
There are many opportunities to pump water from the creek or springs along the trail.
Once you reach the scree field, you have 2 hours to the North Lake. An hour after the scree field you come to a fork - left (S. Fork trail), to the Middle and South Lakes, right for the North. It's about a mile from the fork to the North Lake campsite, (and there is only one place to camp on the north side of the lake), and I believe it's shorter to the Middle Lake. We did not take the S. Fork trail so can't speak to the difficulty or distance.
Be prepared for mosquitos - they were nearly overwhelming, especially in the evening.
Great wilderness trip!
I particularly like this trail because of fond memories. It is a nice trail along a cascading mountain stream, nothing spectacular but a worthy hike if you are in the Biterroot Valley and are looking for a good out-and-back dayhike.
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