Kootenai Creek

Stevensville, Montana

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A longtime favorite of local equestrians, day hikers, and rock climbing enthusiasts, the lower miles of the Kootenai Creek Trail see as much use in one summer weekend as some trails see all year. The trail was extensively impacted by the 6,700-acre Kootenai Creek Fire of 2009—the first large wildfire to affect the drainage in recent memory— during which nearly 5 miles of formerly heavy bottomland forest along the route were opened up to varying degrees. The unburned headwaters remain popular backcountry destinations; indeed, the Kootenai Creek lakes are blazing-blue jewels set in some of the nicest country the Bitterroot Mountains have to offer. Starting west from the parking lot, you follow a gentle grade into a deep, shaded defile whose moss-covered cliffs carry and deflect the sound of rushing water. The trail--which tends to gain elevation in short but steep increments--remains close to Kootenai Creek as it passes a concrete headgate and continues upstream. Old cottonwood trees crowd the watercourse, leaning over the frigid waters in a perilous bid for sunlight.
Hiking the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness

DESCRIPTION FROM:

Hiking the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness

by Scott Steinberg (Falcon Guides)

A longtime favorite of local equestrians, day hikers, and rock climbing enthusiasts, the lower miles of the Kootenai Creek Trail see as much use in one summer weekend as some trails see all year. The trail was extensively impacted by the 6,700-acre Kootenai Creek Fire of 2009—the first large wildfire to affect the drainage in recent memory— during which nearly 5 miles of formerly heavy bottomland forest along the route were opened up to varying degrees. The unburned headwaters remain popular backcountry destinations; indeed, the Kootenai Creek lakes are blazing-blue jewels set in some of the nicest country the Bitterroot Mountains have to offer.

Starting west from the parking lot, you follow a gentle grade into a deep, shaded defile whose moss-covered cliffs carry and deflect the sound of rushing water. The trail--which tends to gain elevation in short but steep increments--remains close to Kootenai Creek as it passes a concrete headgate and continues upstream. Old cottonwood trees crowd the watercourse, leaning over the frigid waters in a perilous bid for sunlight.

©  Scott Steinberg/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Stevensville
Distance: 19
Trail Type: Out-and-back
Skill Level: Moderate
Duration: 10.0–12.0 hours
Season: Late June into September
Accessibility: Dog-friendly
Local Contacts: Lolo National Forest
Local Maps: USGS 7.5-minute series: Saint Joseph Peak, ID-MT; Saint Mary Peak, MT
Driving Directions: Directions to Kootenai Creek

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Apr 2018