MACLAY FLAT INTERPRETIVE TRAIL
Miles: 1.25 mile and 1.8 mile loops>
Elevation gain: None>
For an easygoing outing beyond the city limits, try the trail at Maclay Flat. The path is wide, level and surfaced to accommodate wheelchairs. It takes you along the Bitterroot River and through adjacent meadows, with some great views of mountains around Missoula.
You can learn a lot along the way: 16 interpretive signs describe the river system, wildlife, vegetation and archeology of this area.
A cut-off trail gives you the option to go 1.25 or 1.8 miles. Traveling in a clockwise direction, you pass huge cottonwood and ponderosa pine trees. Be observant and you may see evidence of porcupine and beaver. Also look for wood duck nesting boxes attached to trees and for bluebird boxes on fence posts.
About a third of a mile down the trail, you'll come to a flat grassy area along the river a good picnicking spot (it even has a picnic table). There are also some fishing spots along this stretch of the river.
You have an excellent chance of seeing bald eagles, osprey, blue herons, mallards, red-tailed hawks and white-tailed deer at Maclay Flat. At the southern edge of the meadow, along the irrigation ditch, listen for the songs of meadowlarks and look for red-winged blackbirds. Depending on the time of year, you can see a variety of wildflowers and other plants.
The parking area and trailhead are a short distance west of the road up Blue Mountain. To get there, go about two miles south of Reserve Street on Highway 93, turn right at the Montana Athletic Club and follow Blue Mountain Road (County Road No. 30) for about 1.5 miles. You'll see the parking area on the right.
You can also approach from the north on Blue Mountain Road. From this direction, the trailhead is about two miles south of Maclay Bridge.
You'll find wheelchair-accessible restrooms at the parking area. There's also a carry-in board ramp 200 yards from the parking area. The ramp is wheelchair-accessible. Note that horses and bicycles aren't allowed on this trail, and you must keep dogs on a leash.
A number of community groups have cooperated with the Lolo National Forest over the years to develop this addition to Missoula's trail system.
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