Frequently overlooked, but worth the trip are the trails in the northern Grave Creek Range (a sub-range of the Bitterroot Mountains) just west of Missoula. These mountains comprise the ridgeline extending north from Blue Mountain all the way to Alberton.
While the high points of the range remain snow covered until the first few days of June most years, some of the lower points melt out early exposing a few wonderful routes that need some love. One of these is the Albert Point loop.
This 10.7 mile loop begins 4.5 miles up Albert Creek when the main road curves to the north. The first mile or so of the loop stays on smaller two track before climbing steeply into a single track trail. The abrupt climb eases up upon reaching an old logging road and the next gentle traverse gives ample opportunity to appreciate the views deep into the steep sides of the Albert Creek drainage. This traverse also offers the first glimpse of the top of Albert Point.
Although the trail is beginning to lose ground to encroaching plant life the tread is still easily found and the trail junctions are hard to miss. The first junction to be aware of is about 2.5 miles in. Take a left to stay on trail 719, NOT 731. 731 Leads up to Petty Mountain and big snow drifts in the spring.
Unfortunately 719 leads back down to Albert Creek. Although it’s painful to lose the elevation you just gained when you know you have to regain it, the bottom of the creek offers a nice shady break for a few minutes from the exposed slopes of the mountains.
The climb out of Albert Creek is long, but never too steep. During the climb keep an eye out for pleasant views of Petty Mountain and other points along the top of the Grave Creek Range. You can start planning your next adventure now!
Upon reaching the ridgeline turn left and head up toward Albert Point. Right takes you up to the main Grave Creek ridgeline, which can be connected to Petty Mountain then back to trail 731. So if you want a bigger loop….
There are a couple false summits on your way up to Albert Point so don’t get too excited until you have unobstructed vistas all around. When the trees give way to arrowleaf balsam root and views of the Missoula valley you know you are there.
To get down you can either descend the way you came up, or continue on the trail to the East. After a couple steep drops the trail emerges onto an old logging road that will be your trail for the rest of the descent. Just keep bearing left.
The road becomes overgrown in a few spots, but the worst is up high. Once you navigate around a few downed trees the remaining miles are smooth sailing. Assuming you picked the correct logging road you will pop out right where you parked your car at the big bend in Albert Creek Road.
Details for the Albert Point Loop:
- Distance: 10.68 miles
- Elevation: 2,933′ of climbing
- Water: Albert Creek is your only water source. The first mile parallels the creek, and then the trail crosses the creek around mile 3.5.
- Surface: Single-track trail, double track, and old logging road
- Getting there: From Reserve and Mullan in Missoula drive West until you reach Kona Ranch Road. Turn left on Kona Ranch Road then bear right when needed to stay on Big Flat Road. At six miles cross Dry Gulch and bear right on South Side Road. After 4.5 miles from Dry Gulch turn left on Albert Creek Road. The big turn in Albert Creek road (unmarked trailhead) is 4.5 miles up. If you don’t want to do the loop and simply want to do an out-and-back you can drive farther up the two track paralleling the creek.