Often overlooked because of its proximity to the mouth of Bass Creek, the Larry Creek trails offer a wonderful loop in the foothills of the Bitterroot Mountains. The Larry Creek trails melt out early in the spring so are often one of the first trail experiences free from mud and ice. I highly recommend going in April during peak wildflower season.
There are multiple trails criss-crossing this trail system, but I like a 6.3 mile trail beginning from the horse trailer parking lot (you can also head out the back of the picnic area). I’ve run this loop both directions, but prefer to go clockwise to get the majority of the climbing done with early, and to keep my feet dry for longer.
As I hinted, the trail begins with a climb. Compared to many of the trails in Montana, however, this is a pretty mild grade. The first mile or so is through an old burn area and the route follows the “Ecology” part of the trail.
Key to not getting lost: Follow Yellow.
Just over a mile in the trail abruptly dips into a lush ravine before crossing Larry Creek. Just as abruptly the trail spits you back out into a ponderosa pine forest with plenty of Arrow-Leaf Balsam Root (if you time it right).
|Dropping into the lush part of the Larry Creek Loop|
The high point of the trail comes around mile 2.5 and from there it’s a leisurely cruise on fun, smooth single track for the majority of the last few miles. Occasional glimpses of the Bitterroot Valley make for gorgeous views and the chances of seeing deer or elk in the ranchers fields are pretty high.
The Best Part:
In the last mile or so you’ll get your feet wet during spring runoff (assuming you’re following good trail etiquette and not tromping around off-trail). The creek often overflows the narrow confines the trail makers built and middle-school broad jumping is required. In my mind the creek crossings (yes, there are a couple) add some excitement to finish off the run or hike.
Larry Creek is one of my favorite places for a relaxing run on varied terrain, again, especially in the Spring.
- Distance: 6.3 mile loop trail (following yellow markers)
- Elevation: 922′ of climbing
- Water: Some on the East side of the loop within a mile of the horse parking lot
- Surface: Single-track
- Ideal Times: Spring! and fall. This trail can get hot in summer afternoons, morning is ideal.
- Getting there: From Missoula head South on Hwy 93. Pass through Lolo and Florence. Turn right about 2 miles past Florence onto Bass Creek Road. *DO NOT turn onto Larry Creek Road* Drive due West on Bass Creek Road appx. 2 miles to the intersection with the campground and picnic areas. It’s immediately after crossing the creek. Turn Right. Follow the road for appx 1/4 mile to the horse trailer parking lot. The trail takes off on the west side of the road heading uphill.
- GPX route: https://www.strava.com/activities/552897105
- Things to consider: This area is largely maintained and used by members of the Bitterroot Equestrian club. Please follow all courtesies when encountering horses, and thank riders for their maintenance!
(this post originally appeared on boughnerblog.blogspot.com)