Northern Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Forest: Bitterroot National Forest
District: Sula Ranger District
Description: This is a montane grassland (about 7200 feet) accessed by hiking along an easy one-mile stretch of trail (#106) that traverses an area buned in 2000. The trail crosses a small riparian area with interesting wetland species and eventually opens up onto a saddle and ridge that are covered with wildflowers in June.
Safety First: The most hazardous aspect of accessing this viewing area is driving the narrow, rocky road to the trailhead. Four-wheel drive or high clearance vehicles are required but it is particularly important to avoid driving over sharp rocks that can result in flat tires. Hiking through the burned forest should be avoided during windy days since standing dead trees are prone to breaking off at the top, middle or base.
Directions: Drive south of Missoula, MT on Highway 93 past the towns of Lolo, Florence, Stevensville, Victor, and Darby. About 25 miles south of Darby (or 4 miles south of the Sula Ranger Station, where you can also stop to ask for directions) you will come to Forest Service Road #8112 on the left (west) side. There should be signs posted here for Indian Trees Campground and Porcupine Saddle Trailhead. Follow this road past the entrance to Indian Trees Campground for about five miles where you will see a junction with Forest Service Road 73503. Take this road and after another mile, you will come to the trailhead. You can also park at the junction and walk the road if it’s too rough for your vehicle. The trail starts out through a forest burned in the 2000 wildfires. Here you will see fireweed, penstemons, phacelia and lupine blooming. You then cross a spring with Jeffrey’s shooting star, Canby’s licorice root and American globeflower before taking a left at a trail junction to get into the open saddle with diverse grassland flower species (arrowleaf balsamroot, death camas, wild buckwheats, yellow and red Indian paintbrushes, lupine, glacier lilies, sagebrush and a diversity of native grasses and sedges). You can follow this ridge south to Saddle Mountain or go back to the trail junction and follow it north for a long ridge hike towards Highway 93. There is another possible hike down Porcupine Creek.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Bitterroot National Forest, Sula Ranger District, (406) 821-3201.
Closest Town: Darby, Montana.
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