Features: This trail climbs into the Bitterroot Mountains, passing a nice pond – albeit created by a human-made log dam – and waterfalls on the way to Bass Lake.
Flowers: The primary flower in bloom right now is Albert’s penstemon, Penstemon albertinus. These funnel-shaped, blue to purple flowers have two joined upper petals and three joined lower petals. They bloom from 6- to 12-inch stalks with slender leaves. Albert’s penstemon often hybridizes with Wilcox’s penstemon, which grows taller. We also saw a little bit of arnica, spotted coralroot and roundleaf alumroot. (“Wildflowers of Montana,” by Donald Anthony Schiemann)
Description: The Bass Creek trailhead is located about 4 1/4 miles south of Florence on U.S. Highway 93, then 2 3/4 miles west on Bass Creek Road. For the first 1 3/4 miles, the path climbs west through the forest along the north bank of the creek, passing several spots that provide access to the water. Look for Albert’s penstemon along the uphill side of the trail. The trail levels out as it passes an old log dam with a pond behind it; the valley widens here and provides views of the surrounding mountains. The trail then enters thicker forest, passes into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and arrives at a junction. Turn north and switchback up the side of the canyon. After passing a rocky open area with views down the valley, you’ll reach a nice cascade at about 3 3/4 miles. Last weekend, we turned around just short of these falls due to heavy rain. The trail also continues about another 3 1/4 miles to Bass Lake.
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.