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Lace up the boots and sign up for a wilderness walk

By Missoula Current

Beginning in May and lasting into the fall, the Montana Wilderness Association will offer more than 100 free day hikes, overnight trips, and trail building projects across some of the state’s most magnificent backcountry.

Beginning on May 1, the general public can view the entire Wilderness Walks schedule and sign up Wilderness Walk online. The schedule is also available in MWA’s Discover Wild Montana publication – a benefit for MWA members.

Members are given a two-week period to sign up for a Wilderness Walk before registration opens to the public.

“This is a great year for Wilderness Walks in the Missoula area,” says Zack Porter, MWA’s western Montana field director. “We have several hikes into places that the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act would designate as wilderness and many others happening around WildFest, which is taking place this year in Missoula.”

WildFest is MWA’s annual celebration of Montana’s wild places. It happens this year on Sept. 8 at the Northern Rockies Heritage Center and Sept. 9 at Fort Missoula Regional Park.

In addition to Wilderness Walks, MWA is also offering the public the opportunity to volunteer this summer on nine different volunteer trail projects happening mostly along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, from the Beaverhead Mountains to the Badger-Two Medicine.

Since the program’s beginnings in July of 1962, when MWA founders Ken and Florence Baldwin led 40 hikers on the first Wilderness Walk to Table Mountain in the Spanish Peaks, the intention of the program has remained the same – to build grassroots support for wilderness and public lands by uniting a community around Montana’s special places.

Now in its 55th season, MWA’s Wilderness Walks program continues to offer hikers of all ages and experience levels an opportunity to participate in traditional recreation opportunities while enjoying Montana’s quiet beauty and remaining wild places.

Below is a detailed list of all 2017 Wilderness Walks hosted by MWA’s Shining Mountains Chapter and located in the Missoula area. For more information, contact Amanda Hagerty at (406) 443-7350 (ext. 108) or at ahagerty@wildmontana.org.

Wilderness Walks hosted by the Shining Mountains Chapter in the Missoula area include:

South Fork Lolo Creek

Monday, May 15

Location: Lolo

Leaders: Adam Merlino and Joshua Akins

This walk goes through the proposed South Fork Lolo Creek Wilderness addition and to the northern end of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. It begins with a gentle streamside ascent along the beautiful and wild South Fork of Lolo Creek and ends with a rock overlook of the creek, with a view toward the upper reaches of Lantern Ridge and Bass Peak.

7 miles, moderately strenuous

South Fork Lolo Creek

Saturday, June 10

Location: Lolo

Leaders: Steve Seninger and Daphne Herling

This walk goes through the proposed South Fork Lolo Creek Wilderness addition to and to the northern end of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. The hike begins with a gentle streamside ascent along the beautiful and wild South Fork of Lolo Creek and ends with a rock overlook of the creek with a view toward the upper reaches of Lantern Ridge and Bass Peak.

6 miles, moderately strenuous

Bass Creek

Saturday, June 17

Location: Florence

Leaders: Adam Merlino and Joshua Atkins

Join us on an adventure to Bass Creek in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, along the way stopping at a waterfall and doing some backpack fishing.

10 miles, moderately strenuous

Sunday Mountain

Sunday, June 24

Location: Seeley Lake

Leaders: Lee Boman and Gene Schade

Come hike what may be the quickest route to the crest of the Swan Range, a landscape that would be added to the Bob Marshall Wilderness with passage of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act. In terms of views and wildflowers, it may also be the most vivid ways to appreciate the Swan Range and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

6 miles, strenuous

Kid Lake

Sunday, July 9

Location: Missoula

Leaders: Chris Ryan and Pat Ryan

Learn about the history of the Great Burn and discuss opportunities for keeping the area wild for future generations with a hike to a beautiful subalpine lake on the Montana-Idaho state line in the Great Burn Proposed Wilderness Area.

6 miles, moderate

Blodgett Canyon Waterfall

Saturday, July 15

Location: Hamilton

Leaders: Adam Merlino and Joshua Akins

Blodgett Canyon is nestled in the Bitterroot Mountains, where some excellent hiking, fishing, and backpacking can be found almost anytime of the year. This hike features a waterfall and is good for all skill levels.

8 miles, moderate

Great Burn

Sunday, July 16

Location: Missoula

Leaders: Nick Littman and Nick Triolo

Run the ridgelines of the Great Burn. This self-supported trail run will traverse the scenic high country of the Great Burn Proposed Wilderness along the state line before looping down to the Heart Lake Trailhead. There will be an option for a five-mile add-on down to Goose Lake and back.

10 miles, strenuous

Cedar Cathedral Fire

Thursday, July 27

Location: Alberton

Leaders: Bert Lindler and Jay Gore

Hike up the West Fork of Fish Creek in the Great Burn Recommended Wilderness, which burned in 2015. Witness the recovery after the fire and and conclude your walk among a grove of giant cedar trees spared by this fire and many previous ones.

6 miles, moderate

Saint Mary Peak

Saturday, July 29

Location: Stevensville

Leaders: Shawn McKinney and Julee Shamhart

Join the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation for a hike up to the crest of the Bitterroot Range to explore the ecology of amazing whitebark ecosystems. Discussion on ecological interactions, threats, and efforts to restore whitebark ecosystems will take place. The views are worth the elevation gain.

7 miles, strenuous

Dome Shaped Mountain

Saturday, August 5 – Sunday, August 6

Location: Stevensville

Leaders: Adam Merlino and Joshua Akins

Join this great ridgeline hike in the Bitterroot National Forest. Hike from Gold Creek camp to Dome Shaped Mountain and back.

20 miles, strenuous

Kootenai Creek

Saturday, September 9

Location: Florence

Leaders: Mary Langenderfer and Marilyn Wolff

This is a classic Bitterroot Mountain canyon with spectacular scenery, including a raging creek, moss-covered walls, and rocky, steep cliffs, which can be enjoyed all year long.

8 miles, moderately strenuous

Maclay Flats

Saturday, September 9

Location: Missoula

Leaders: Julie Ellison and Katy Koster

Join a scavenger hunt for nature’s treasure along the trail to the Bitterroot River. Fall is in the air, and many treasures still abound in nature. This hike is not about the destination but about slowing down to notice all the little details that make nature diverse and amazing. The trail is wheelchair accessible, flat, and circular.

1.5 miles, easy

Heart Lake

Saturday, September 9

Location: Superior

Leader: Steve Schombel

This short leads to one of the most beautiful lakes in the Great Burn Proposed Wilderness Area. Surrounded by high ridges and rocky peaks, Heart Lake, our turnaround point, is a great place to relax and have lunch.

4.5 miles, moderate

Hoodoo Pass to Heart Lake

Saturday, September 9

Location: Superior

Leaders: Chuck Irestone and Peter Lessica

Starting at Hoodoo Pass on the Stateline Trail, hike past Dalton, Pearl, and Heart Lakes and finish at the Heart Lake Trailhead. A local wildflower expert will point out and discuss the late season wildflowers abundant along the route.

10 miles, extremely strenuous

Sunday Mountain

Saturday, September 9

Location: Seeley Lake

Leaders: Lee Boman and Gene Schade

Come hike what may be the quickest route to the crest of the Swan Range, a landscape that would be added to the Bob Marshall Wilderness with passage of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act. In terms of views and wildflowers, it may also be the most vivid ways to appreciate the Swan Range and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

6 miles, strenuous

Clearwater Lake

Saturday, September 9

Location: Seeley Lake

Leader: Patti Bartlett

Join Seeley Lake teachers and students for a guided hike to the first of six lakes in the Clearwater River Chain-of-Lakes. The views of the Swan Front or the perfectly clear yet colorful lake are unforgettable. This area is adjacent to Bob Marshall Wilderness additions proposed in the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act.

2.6 miles, easy