Features: This is a 3 1/2-mile hike along the Sam Braxton National Recreation Trail at the Pattee Canyon Recreation Area, on the eastern edge of Missoula.
Flowers: Several species of wildflowers can be found along the Sam Braxton Trail right now. Look low for white flowers of false solomonseal and lily-of-the-valley – both have clusters of small white flowers at the end of a long, leaved stalk, with solomonseal being more dense. There’s also plenty of orange paintbrush. The taller stalks topped with a small cluster of pale yellow flowers are roundleaf alumroot. And the largest stalks topped with dense clusters of white flowers are beargrass, Xerophyllum tenax. These plants grow to 3 to 5 feet tall from thick clumps of grasslike leaves. (“Wildflowers of Montana,” by Donald Anthony Schiemann.)
Description: The Sam Braxton trailhead is located near the top of Pattee Canyon Road, 4 1/4 miles from its intersection with South Higgins Avenue. Follow the level main trail south from the parking lot a short distance to the signed start of the Sam Braxton Trail. The route is well-marked as Trail 9.0 and with the triangular National Recreation Trail logo. As the trail zigzags uphill to the south, look for beargrass in the open ponderosa stand. The trail reaches its high point and traverses west. The view here includes Mount Sentinel and University Mountain to the north. The trail switches back to the east, then loops back west and continues in general clockwise direction back to the level main trail at the start. It’s mostly downhill with a few short rises.