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Trail Well Traveled – 6/16

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!

Cave Ridge Hike

A gentle hike through forests and meadows along limestone canyons with abundant wildflowers in season.

Round Trip: 2.5 miles

Total Elevation Gain: 600 feet


Directions: From Missoula you’ll first head to Bridger, a town about 29 miles south of Laurel on Montana 310. Get to Laurel by heading east on I-90 towards Billings.

From Bridger, continue about 2.5 miles south on Highway 310 and turn east on Pryor Mountain Road. About 12 miles down the road you’ll reach an unmarked junction. Turn left there, and then continue another 22.4 miles until you reach Big Ice Cave.

What to expect: Cave Ridge Hike is an easily accessible loop through a good sample of Pryor Mountain Douglas fir forest and meadow.

The ridge is bounded by 400 foot-deep, forested canyons topped with limestone cliffs.  To the east is Cave Creek Canyon, and to the west is an unnamed canyon.  The joining of the two canyons form the southern point of Cave Ridge – the southern end of the loop hike.

Big Ice Cave parking area is the highest elevation on the hike, which loops downhill to the southern tip of the ridge and back uphill to the parking area.  Parts of the hike are along an old, abandoned logging road.  Other parts have no constructed trail (yet), but the topography makes the route easy to follow.

From the picnic area, walk gently downhill a third-mile to a half-mile west or southwest through open forest and meadow until you intersect the old logging road. The exact direction you walk downhill doesn’t matter since the logging road is roughly perpendicular to your walk.

Turn left and follow road about a mile south to its end. Then continue without trail for about 300 yards south to the point of the ridge where the two canyons join.


From the ridge end you can look south to the junction of Cave Canyon and Lost Water Canyon; or look west over Commissary Canyon and the Island and Commissary ridges to Big Pryor Mountain.

To return, follow the rim of Cave Canyon first northeast then mostly north to the Big Ice Cave picnic area.  There is no trail, so just keep the canyon on your right.  You can’t miss the picnic area which overlooks the canyon.

Be sure to check out this printer-friendly hiking guide before you go!

Tip: Hikers have logged as many as 40 different species of wildflowers on a single June day here. You can see a sampling of the many breeds and varieties HERE.

Also, be sure to look for coral and brachiopod fossils in the rocky points overlooking the canyon.


Learn more about this trail, file your own trip report and photos, or check out some other great hikes at hikewildmontana.org. 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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