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.
Several upcoming trail runs and a road race offer opportunities to enjoy the late spring and early summer wildflower bloom in northwestern Montana.
Some of these I have run before, while others I plan to do this year.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of all races in western Montana this summer – it is based on date and location with relation to the likelihood of seeing wildflowers, and has events suitable for all abilities.
You don’t have to slow down, but do look around!
The Evaro Mountain Challenge is this Saturday, May 19. Longtime rancher and runner Bob Hayes organizes this event in Evaro, with 5K and 10K runs, 5K and 10K race walks, and a 5K fun run. Registration is by mail or from 8:30 to 9:45 a.m. on the day of the race. The 10K race walk begins at 9:30 a.m., while all other distances start at 10.
The 11 Miles to Paradise race is this Sunday, May 20. The course for this race is on single-track trail through the Lolo National Forest and along the Clark Fork River near Paradise. Registration is online through May 18, then from 7:15 to 8:15 a.m. the day of the race. Race start is 9 a.m. Runners are shuttled to and from the course from Quinn’s Hot Springs, where lunch and a soak are available afterward. See you there!
The Ninemile Family Fun Run on Saturday, June 2, is actually two events – a 1K and a 2K – on the Discovery Nature Trail at the Grand Menard Picnic Area near the Ninemile Ranger Station. Registration is the day of the runs and both are free! Start time is 9 a.m.
The Pengelly Double Dip and Single Dip are Saturday, June 9, in Missoula. The Double Dip, a half marathon with 2,700 feet of vertical gain on Mount Sentinel and University Mountain, starts at 9 a.m. The Single Dip, a 10K across the Sentinel fire road, begins at 9:30 a.m. Registration is available online and packet pickup begins at 7 a.m. at the River Bowl East. I ran this race two years ago – and might again this year – and the arrowleaf balsamroot in bloom near the top of the mountain was gorgeous.
The Herron Half Marathon and 10K are also June 9, at Herron Park in Kalispell. Register online through June 6 or mail a paper registration by June 1; last-minute registration will also be available on race day. Packet pickup begins at 7:30 a.m. with the races getting under way at 10 a.m. The course covers nearly all of the trails in the park.
The Ten Spoon 10K is Wednesday, June 20, on roads and trails in Missoula’s Rattlesnake Valley. The evening 10K race and kids fun run coincide with the summer solstice. Register online. The fun run begins at 6 p.m. and 10K at 6:30 p.m. at Ten Spoon Vineyard and Winery. It includes a glass of wine, snacks, ice cream for the kids and music afterward. Sounds like an enjoyable time, and if I can get away from work I plan to be there.
The Celebrate the Swan Race is scheduled for Saturday, June 23, in Condon. There’s a half marathon, 10K, 5K and one-mile fun run on roads in the Flathead National Forest. Registration is available by mail through June 15 or on race day by 8 a.m. The half marathon begins at 9 a.m., with other races at 10 a.m. Judging by the race artwork, you might need to outrun a bear.
Also June 23, the Waterton Glacier Relay is a 100-mile team race on roads from Cardston, Alberta, to East Glacier. Late registration is online through June 3. Team check-in is 6 to 10 p.m. June 22 or 3:30 to 5:15 a.m. on race day, with runners getting an early start at 4 a.m. The course never actually enters Waterton Lakes or Glacier national parks, but should be scenic nonetheless. Valid passport required.
Technically in Idaho, the Mountain to Meadow Half Marathon and 5K Fun Run are Saturday, June 30, at Lolo Pass. The courses are on forest roads through the Bitterroot Mountains, and the race is usually around the time of the vibrant blue camas bloom in Packer Meadows. I ran it a few years back when beargrass was also blooming well, and plan to be there this year, too. Registration is online through June 27. The race starts at 7:30 a.m. Pacific – that’s 8:30 a.m. Mountain.