Sunday, June 01, 2014

Crow Creek Falls Hike

(Warning:  heavy on pictures!)

So at long last things were working out that I could get out with my hiking group.  I had been worried about rain, but was advised by our hiking guru it wasn't going to start until after our hike (and to be on the safe side throw my rain gear in my pack to guarantee it wouldn't rain).  I was a little uncertain as to my ability and the trail's abilities, but I so wanted to see this waterfall and get out of the house and exercising, I packed my sandwich and water and headed out.

While the falls are only about 22 miles from Helena as the crow flies, not being crows we had to take the 'road' route to get to the trailhead.  The first hour of the drive is paved roads, good going.  Then you hit about 30 minutes of gravel/dirt roads, bumpy, twisty, but with views like this.

What's not to love about that!  (Note:  there are still pockets of snow on some of the mountain tops.)  We were up about 5400 feet and the hike would climb to about 5600 feet.  Supposedly doable for me.

When I stepped out of the car at the trailhead, there were wildflowers everywhere.  I think the blue ones are blue bells, but that is another posting as I identify some of the flowers which were blooming.  I knew this was going to be a good day!

As you leave the parking area at the trailhead, you climb down a series of switchbacks to an open area.  What bothered me about the switchbacks is that I knew I would have to climb back up them on the return - 7 miles later.  What stuck me was almost immediately you heard water rushing.  The water is running high due to the spring run off, so I am sure it's not like this all year, but most of the hike was accompanied by the sound of the river.  It was quite nice.

We went though an open area, carpeted with wildflowers.  This is one thing that really made the hike interesting, not everything was up and down.  There were areas where we went through forest, open areas, some of the trail was right along the hillside up over the river (don't look down if you don't like heights!), but all the time, the sound of the creek was there. 

After a very steep switchback going UP, you come out onto this huge open area and then another trek through the woods.  The openness highlighted just how isolated you really were.

And then finally we were above the falls.  A steep path down to the creek bed (which meant a steep climb up!) and we were at the falls. You could hear it roaring some distance away.

It might not be Niagara Falls, but I was impressed.  If you look at the bottom right hand side you can see one of our hikers standing there.  Jeff is a bit taller than me (I'm 5'10"), so it will give you and idea of how tall the falls are.

What made this doubly fascinating for me was that you didn't see where the water came from.  At the top of the path leading down to the falls, you can look over and see the 'creek' barely through the trees, but it isn't obvious.  It's like ta-da and there it is!

Just behind the falls there is an entrance to an old mine.  I was interested to get the scoop on the mine and was amazed to find out this area had only be cleaned up and open to the public over the past 10 years.  (For more information, read here...Crow Creek Falls)

Now while I am doing my huffing-and-puffing-hiking thing, we were passed by 4 young boys (10ish) and their dads going fishing here.  And if that wasn't enough to make me feel bad about being the last in line, Katie's 3-legged dog, Mini-Belle, was just running along as nice as you please.  How sad, I'm bested by a 3-legged dog!

Most of the day was a little overcast, but on the way back we did get some periods of sunshine on the trail.  The way back, with a couple of exceptions, was easier than the inbound trip.  I did keep thinking if we could pack it with Lady K and I am still undecided.  But I would love for Texter to see the falls.

There are a couple of really small streams we have to cross along the way.  Toward the start of the hike there is a bridge over Crow Creek.  My fellow hikers patiently await my arrival.

So back again at the start, with the slow climb up to the parking lot.  It wasn't quite as bad as I had been dreading.  But one thing about being slow is that you see things like this that other people miss on the way.

Fairy Slipper Orchid!  The whole plant is about 5-6" tall and the flower is a little larger than my thumb.  A lovely jewel in the forest.

A great day hiking. Would I do it again.  Yes.  In fact, if it wasn't for the steep portions I would love to do it when the falls are frozen, but that's a bit beyond me right now.


  1. Judy, I love reading your blog and seeing the photos from our hikes. I'm so glad you accomplished this hike. I truly enjoy hiking with you. (And so does Marky.) Till next time, Don Uhrig of Helena Hikers on

  2. Beautiful! I can always take Lady K if you and Texter want to take a hike someday....


Thanks for commenting. It means a lot.