Features: This is a three-mile round-trip hike with a small amount of elevation gain to a waterfall in the Bitterroot Mountains near Victor.
Flowers: When we were there Sunday, fairy slipper orchids (Calypso bulbosa) were blooming well. These small pinkish-brown flowers are 2 to 6 inches tall with three pointed pink sepals and two similar petals protruding from the top. A third petal forms a larger lip with purple stripes inside and white or yellow hairs on the upper edge. We also saw fairy bells, triliums and glacier lilies. (“Wildflowers of Montana,” by Donald Anthony Schiemann.)
Description: To reach the Bear Creek trailhead, drive 3.3 miles south of Victor on U.S. Highway 93, then 2.3 miles west on Bear Creek Road, 0.8 miles north on Red Crow Road and 3.2 miles west on Red Crow and Bear Creek roads. The trail sets out west through the trees along the south side of the creek, then quickly crosses a couple of boulder fields. Look for fairy slipper orchids as it returns to the shade of the forest, with the sound of the creek not far away. After 1 1/2 miles, the trail exits the trees at a large open cliff, with the creek running fast past its base. From the cliff, one or two small waterfalls can be seen, depending on the runoff. This is a good place to relax and explore, and the trail continues higher into the drainage and splits. Retrace the route back to the trailhead.