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Trail Well Traveled – 1/5

Welcome to the Trail Well Traveled!

Each Friday, in partnership with Montana Wilderness Association we will feature a new western Montana trail and then give you some helpful details and tips to get on your way!

This week, Craig opens the first hiking weekend of 2018 with a trek west of Plains that is accessible year-round.

Big Hole Lookout

A gradual but steady six-mile climb to a lookout with 360 degree views looking towards the Missions and Cabinet Mountains

Roundtrip: 12 miles

Directions: From Plains, travel west on Hwy 200.  Three-quarters of a mile past mile post 63, turn right into the marked Munson Creek trailhead parking area.

What to expect:

At the trailhead, there’s an immediate fork:  Right up an abandoned logging road, or left down the trail.  Take the left fork, following the blue plastic diamond trail markers.  A short ways down the trail, cross the stream on a log footbridge, then begin the gradual but steady ascent.  For the entire six miles to the lookout, the climb is never steep and it never lets up.

For the first three miles, the trail passes through alternate stands of Douglas fir and ponderosa, cedar, and larch, with some birch mixed in.  There’s a small campsite in the third cedar grove, just past the third crossing of Munson Creek, about 3 miles in.  Just beyond this, the trail continues ascending to the first big open views of the Cherry Creek Roadless Area.

Following the switchbacks up through open forest and meadow, after 4.9 miles you’ll arrive at a pass and junction with Spring Creek Trail.  At the pass, the otherwise “wild” trail experience is interrupted by views of forest roads and timber units.  Turn left at the Spring Creek Trail junction, ascending the ridge another 1.1 miles to the Big Hole Lookout.  (Two more trails intersect your path – just stay straight along the ridge to the top.)

From the top of the Lookout (where there’s an old outhouse), there are expansive views to the Missions, Reservation Divide, Cherry Creek Roadless Area, and the Cabinet Mountains.

Note:  This is a continuation of the Munson Creek Trail, listed separately.

Learn more about this trail, file your own trip report and photos, or check out some other great hikes at And don’t forget to tune in to the Trail 103.3 each Friday at 9:50 am for the next featured trail and your chance to win!

Big thanks to Rangitsch Bros RV for sponsoring the Trail Well Traveled. Proudly serving Missoula for over 56 years, whatever camper best suits your needs Rangitsch Bros has got it!

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