Get Away From the Crowds on the West Boulder
Just a few months ago I told you about how amazing the Boulder River Valley is. This unique area of Montana is home to wonderful fishing, the setting for famous movies, and a number of summer camps. Because it is so amazing, easily accessible, and popular, it gets a lot of traffic. In order to get away from the people just hop one valley over to the West Boulder valley. Although a fire came through wiping out a lot of the trees in 2006, the area is still beautiful.
The trailhead begins at some private property at the end of the West Boulder road. You have to hike about a quarter mile through private property before getting into the trees. From there your first mile or so is heavily wooded with a very nice path to walk along. After crossing the footbridge over the river you will get into the burnt out area of the valley. Another mile and a half through the dead trees and you will be in sight of the West Boulder Meadows. These lush fields sit along a wide spot in the river and make for the easiest destination in the area. There are a few camp sites around, and multiple beaver ponds that have created deep pockets of water that grow some enormous brown trout. The hike is easy enough that you can spend an hour or a week and never get tired of these meadows.
The meadows are not the only destination in the valley however. An unmarked trail before the footbridge will take you up the side of the mountain to a little bowl that houses the two Lost Creek Lakes. The whole way up you will see signs of deer and elk, and if you are lucky you will spot a moose or two wallowing in the water while you sit on the shores of this pristine mountain lake eating your lunch.
And speaking of wildlife there is no shortage. I hiked the valley just last weekend and saw hundreds of animals. Deer were the most abundant, but there were also elk and antelope to be spotted on the drive in. Once hiking we saw geese, ducks, cranes, 2 moose, more deer, a skunk, fish, hawks, an eagle, and various other smaller animals. The only thing we didn’t see that we really wanted to was bears. Bear hunting season lasts until the end of May, and we didn’t spot any signs they were even in the area. Good for those going for a leisurely stroll; bad for bear hunters.
You can hunt, fish and enjoy the meadows for hours, or keep along the path. It will take you all the way to Paradise Valley, and if you are tired of The Beaten Path (Cooke City to East Rosebud) then this is another multi-day trek that is sure to be a hit.
If you go, make sure you pack appropriately for the Beartooths. The days are warm, the nights are cold, and while we didn’t see any bears, that does not mean they won’t come through later in the summer. The hike is not too strenuous, but the meadows are nearly three miles from the car, so bring a first aid kit. To get to the parking area (which also has a campground nearby in case you just want to car camp) take McLeod Street south out of Big Timber for about 16.5 miles. Just past the tiny town of McLeod you will see the West Boulder Road heading off to your right. After about 7.5 miles the road will turn sharply to the left (don’t worry it is well marked). Another 6 miles will get you to the end of the road where your adventure begins. Here is a map for reference.
If you are looking to get away to a spot a little less crowded this summer, check out the West Boulder. You will be happy with what you find.
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