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Trail Well Traveled – 9/1

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!

In keeping with his efforts to make our outdoor adventures as smoke-free as possible, Craig is sending us south again to the lone part of Montana that seems to be immune from all the wildfires.

Odell Creek Trail

Hike from high alpine wetlands into the Centennial Mountains along one of the only developed trails at Red Rocks Lakes National Wildlife Refuge


Round Trip: 11 miles

Total Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet

Directions: From Missoula, head east on I-90, take Exit 219 south onto I-15 just a few miles before you reach Butte.

Continue all the way to just about the border of Idaho, taking Exit 0 in a little town called Monida and heading east on South Valley Road. After about 35 miles, you’ll arrive at the refuge. The trail is well marked, though signs are subtle and often missed. Park your car in the grassy lot on the north side of the road and cross over to the signed trail on the southern side.

If you have trouble finding it, just continue along the road another mile and you’ll reach refuge headquarters.

What to expect: The trail starts on the southeastern end of the Centennial Valley.

The first mile open aspen forest, which is the start of a transition from the flat valley bottom to the forested, more vertical terrain of the Centennial Mountains. After that, forest composition will shift towards Douglas fir and other conifers. You’ll briefly skirt private property before continuing through the forest. Through these first few miles elevation gains are moderate and often quickly followed by corresponding descents.

You’ll pass a number of small creeks before reaching Odell Creek. After a 15 foot stream crossing without a bridge (there is a fallen tree that serves as a makeshift bridge for those wishing not to get their feet wet), you’ll proceed into the canyon. From here on, the trail follows Odell Creek into an increasingly narrow canyon in the Centennials.

As the canyon narrows you’ll find that Odell Creek forms enticing rushing cascades and mini pools that beckon if temperatures are warm. The rocky cliffs arising steeply on either side of the trail and creek are striking. In the canyon you’ll come to a sign announcing that you’ve arrived at the US Sheep Experiment Station about 2 miles from the trailhead. From that point forward there are bridges at creek crossings.

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The Odell Creek trail eventually connects with the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) about 5.5 miles from the trailhead


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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