BLUE MOUNTAIN NATURE TRAIL
Miles: 1/4 loop
Elevation gain: 50 feet (from 3,650 feet to 3,700 feet)
This popular trail is a stopping-off point on your way up Forest Road No. 365 to the Blue Mountain lookout. One of the few Missoula-area trails with interpretive information on-site, it's also a popular destination for individuals, families, school classes and other groups interested in environmental education.
The path is on a fairly level grade, making it quite accessible to young children and people not interested in or able to take more strenuous hikes.
Numbered wooden posts along the trail mark points of interest, and a pocket-sized brochure furnishes corresponding interpretive information. You can learn about prescribed fire, Glacial Lake Missoula, forest "recycling," Montana's state tree, and about lichen, kinnikinnick, nine-bark, serviceberry and many other plants.
Midway down the trail, you'll come upon a rock outcrop where there's a vista of distant mountains, the Missoula Valley and the Bitterroot River winding toward its confluence with the Clark Fork. There is wheelchair access from the trailhead to this viewing area. Be sure to stop at the sign showing a photographic panorama of this view it identifies all the peaks in your range of sight.
The trail starts about two miles up Forest Road No. 365. Vandals continue to remove Forest Service signs that direct you to the trailhead, so look for it to the right (east) side of the road just before a switchback. You'll see a trailhead sign a few feet down the path. There isn't a parking lot here, but three to four cars can be parked along the road.
You can generally get one of the Nature Trail interpretive brochures at the trailhead sign but because the supply is sometimes depleted, it's a good idea to pick one up from an area Visitor Center. The Lolo National Forest Visitor Center is at Fort Missoula, just a short distance from Highway 93 and Reserve Street on your way out of town.
CLICK ON THE MAP FOR A LARGER IMAGE