Montana 70-80 mile loops

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    Ryan McElyea
    BPL Member


    Hello all!

    Wife and I have a week off in August and are wanting to go somewhere new. We are interested in any advise for the southern half of Montana that would give us a 70-80 mile loop. We will be driving from northen Colorado and don’t want to spend to much time in the car.



    Jordan M
    BPL Member


    No specific loops to recommend, but plenty of trails to connect out of Phillipsburg (Anaconda/Pintler Wilderness and CDT), Sula, and Darby/Bitterroot Valley (Selway/Bitterroot Wilderness). Darby trails would head you over back into Idaho. Mark Weatherington might have some recommendations.

    Drive is not too bad if you route through Jackson and Driggs.

    Bozeman/Red Lodge a lot closer but I’m not as familiar with those areas.

    I suggest making a couple plans in case of Forest closures due to wildfires-bonus fun dreaming on a map!

    Feel free to PM me if you want more specific trail information in SW MT.

    Mark Wetherington
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Montana

    I do a lot of backpacking — and a lot of looking at maps/guidebooks when I’m not backpacking — in western Montana (near Missoula), but that might be a bit out of your driving range.

    I’m guessing the Beartooths are probably already on your radar? If not, that would be a place to look into and you should be able to find exactly what you’re looking for. I’ve never backpacked there myself but have heard great things and there are some in-depth guidebooks out there that have plenty of trips described in them.

    In the areas I’m most experienced with (Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness; Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness; Beaverhead Mountain Range) there unfortunately aren’t a lot of loops. A lot of the trails meander up one canyon to the high country and either connect with an adjacent canyon or are out-and-backs unless you want to engage in cross-country travel. If you can arrange a shuttle, there are some great trips in the 50-70 mile range that would be pretty incredible, although you might end up running into some sketchy trail conditions and/or burned areas. Because of that I typically plan lower mileage days in this area than I do for national parks.

    If I had to make only one recommendation, I’d say a section hike of the CDT in the Beaverhead Mountains, west of Jackson Hot Springs, MT, would be a great use of a week in southwest Montana. Only issue is the bugs can be pretty vicious in that area in early August. They’re barely tolerable by mid-August in most years and pretty much nonexistent by the end of August. Depending on where you start it might be a little less than your mileage goal, but I guarantee you that if you make the side trips to the numerous high lakes off the CDT it will be a memorable trip, especially if you fish : )

    Feel free to send me a PM and I can share some more of the logistical details with you and the shuttle options for that area.

    Happy hiking!

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