Riding - Hiking - Spring Flowers - Photography
This is an amazing early summer trip into the back country. We don't see many people this time of year, but we do see lots of wildlife and lots of wild flowers. Due to the nature of higher mountain valleys, spring comes a later than most anywhere else. Birch Creek has a lower elevation, so we won't have to cross any snowfields or passes. It's pleasant horseback riding in the valley, which is a lower elevation than the immediate surrounding peaks and ridges. In the South Fork valley snow is melted off, and the grass and trees are bursting with spring foliage. All manner of wildflowers are just getting started and you have a great opportunity to see the first part of summer all the mountain wildflowers are out in splendor. Additionally, the wildlife is commonly seen as they are moving from winter range to summer range, chasing the green grass as they go higher in elevation. The rivers and streams will be full with winter run off. There isn't much for fishing this time of year due to he murky nature of the streams.
Day 1: Pack up early at our Birch Creek trailhead. We ride along the south side of Swift Reservoir, which is an irrigation dam impounding Birch Creek. It takes about 2 hours to ride around the lake, and it is an stunningly scenic ride with vistas at each little ridge. Along the lake trail we ride past Hell Roaring Spring, which burbles out 200 gallons per minute of ice cold water on a near vertical drop to the lake. After getting to the head of the lake we ride another 2 hours to our campside on the South Fork of Birch Creek. The South Fork valley is a beautiful valley with a continuous photo opportunities. Riding distance is 12 miles.
Day 2: No travel day. Our options to explore the South Fork valley include riding up to Bloody Ridge, the site of a pre-settlement battle between the Blackfeet and Flathead Indians. If the snow has left the upper basins we can ride up to Gateway Pass and explore the area under the continental divide. This time of year there are a lot of wildlife in the area and we are sure to see elk, black bear, bighorn sheep, and muledeer. Riding distance is usually about 8 miles.
Day 3: No travel day. Our options this day include a hike up to a hidden lake on Lake Fork of Birch Creek. For riders, we can ride up Phone Creek and explore this hidden valley and some great views of the Rocky Mountain Front Range from ridges above Phone Creek. Riding distance is 8 miles.
Day 4: Pack up early and ride out the South Fork trail. We keep a sharp eye out for wildlife as this time of year they often travel in the mornings as they move from the Rocky Mountain Front to the upper mountain meadows. The scenery along the South Fork is just as impressive on the return trip wish many more photo opportunities. We arrive at our Birch Creek trailhead in mid-afternoon. Riding distance is 12 miles.
This trip offers a nice mix of horseback riding and day-hiking adventures. The South Fork trail is an easy trail to ride, and the riding distances range from 8-12 miles. These is very moderate riding terrain. The campsites are in the bottom of the South Fork Valley, with panoramic views of the surrounding snow-capped peaks. There are many great options for day hike or day riding activities. We usually visit 1-2 different campsites in the South Fork. The wildlife are abundant, and the wildflowers are amazing this time of year. Definitely bring your camera. If you are a professional photographer, or aspiring amateur, bring the appropriate lenses, etc as you'll find you are using them extensively.
Of particular interest, due to the absolute remote nature of the Bob Marshall, there is zero light polution, and near perfectly clear skies. The deep evening star gazing is intensely beautful, where you can see brilliantly our evening constellations, the Milky Way galaxy, and numerous shooting stars. This is a unique and rare opportunity to see our night time sky in a way you've not seen it before. The days are long out here, so plan on staying up late as sunset is about 10pm.
While this trip goes out in mid-June, the temps and weather you will experience is mountain spring-like conditions. Expect mild days with chilly nights. Layers are key to comfort, and you should always bring comfortable rain gear to ride or hike in. Comfortable hiking/riding boots are a must. Your sleeping bag should be comfortable to about 30F, though it rarely gets quite that cold. Daytime temps will be in the 70's, and we will not get days in the 80's in the mountains this time of year. Please take a look at the downloadable PDF below for additional detail.