Northern Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Willoughby Environmental Education Area
Forest: Bitterroot National Forest
District: Stevensville Ranger District
Description: Located in the foothills of the Sapphire Mountains on the east side of the Bitterroot Valley, the Willoughby Environmental Education Area is a unique 40-acre parcel of National Forest land surrounded by private property. Starting on the east side a one mile loop trail takes you through some of the big mountain sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata var. vaseyana) habitat that once covered most of the east side of the Bitterroot Valley. The trail then winds down through a riparian black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) community and back up into a ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) - bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata) habitat. Along the way, you will have views to the west of the rugged Bitteroot Mountains across the valley and the more rolling Sapphire Mountain range just to the east. A parking area, covered picnic tables and outhouse are availble.
Wildflower Viewing: During the spring wildflower season you can see bitterroots (Lewisia rediviva) blooming in the sagebrush benches. The bitterroot is the Montana state flower and sacred plant of manywestern Indian tribes. Other wildflowers seen along the nature trail include: pale Indian paintbrushe (Castilleja pallescens), low larkspur (Delphinium bicolor), wild hyacinth (Brodiaea douglasia), prairie smoke (Geum triflorum), sticky geranium (Geranium viscosissimum), death camas (Zigadenus venenosus), yellowbells (Fritillaria pudica), and lupine (Lupinus sp.). You may also see syringa (Philadelphus lewisii), serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), and chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) flowering throughout the spring and summer.
Safety First: The upland areas at Willoughby 40 are snow free most of the year. Sun protection (sunscreen, sunglasses, wide-brimmed hat) is recommended in the sagebrush area since there are no trees for shading. Ticks can be found in the springtime and mosquitoes a bit later - particularly in the riparian area. Wearing a hat, long-sleeve shirt and long pants tucked into socks help deter insects. Mosquito repellents may also help discourage mosquitoes and ticks. The trail has some rocks and up and down sections so sturdy shoes or boots are recommended for walking. Some people may find a hiking staff or poles useful.
Directions: Willoughby Environmental Education Area is located 35 miles south of Missoula, Montana, on Highway 93, between Stevensville and Victor. Turn east at Bell Crossing Road (a flashing light is at the intersection) and drive across the intersection with the Eastside Highway, where you will see a sign for “Willoughby 40”. Follow Willoughby Creek Road east and slightly north as it winds uphill (past another brown “Wildlife Viewing” sign), becomes South Sunset Bench Road and turns into a dirt road on the bench above. You will see the parking area and covered picnic tables on the right with a sign identifying it as “Willoughby Environmental Education Area”.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Bitterroot National Forest, Stevensville Ranger District.
Closest Town: Between Stevensville and Victor, Montana.