excursions AROUND the seeley~swan valley
You've decided to come to Seeley Lake, Montana .... now what?
We have compiled a list of "MUSTS" for your itinerary
MORREL FALLS This 5 mile round trip hike is one of the Seeley-Swan’s most popular. The trail is relatively flat, the elevation at the falls is only 135 feet higher than the trail head.
At the beginning of the hike, you cross over Morrell Creek and enter a large stand of lodge pole pine. These tall narrow trees are quite a sight. On the ground, you will find many varieties of wild flowers, bear grass and maybe even a huckleberry plant or two.
As you hike further, you enter a thick forested area, and start to notice smaller alpine wild flowers and beautiful green ground-cover. Near the end of the trail, you pass the 26 acre Morrell Lake. There are grassy areas at the lake to stop and rest. After passing the lake, you will start to hear the sound of the falls. Crossing the bridge over Morrell Creek, take a couple more twists in the trail, and you’re there at the base of one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Western Montana.
There are plenty of logs to rest yourself on while you soak in the beauty of the view. If you are feeling ambitious, there is a very steep trail next to the falls that will take you up to the top. An amazing view.
HOLLAND FALLS This 3 mile round trip hike is another local favorite in the Seeley-Swan Valley. The first half of the trail wind through a forested area that follows the shoreline on Holland Lake. Incredible varieties of wildflowers can be found on this trail. Also keep your eyes open for turtles sunning themselves on the warm rocks and logs in the lake. After the first mile, the trail takes a 90 degree turn at a switchback. Be sure and follow the switchback instead of the trail leading back towards the lake. The last half mile of the trail is the hardest, being uphill and a bit rocky in some places.
The view from the top is worth it! When you reach the falls, there are rocks to sit and rest yourself on while you recover from the climb. If the beauty of the falls and the view of the Mission Mountains across from the climb are not enough to keep you busy, the chipmunks will surely keep you entertained!
Being up the Hwy this far, you may want to stop at the Hungry Bear for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They are located about a mile north on Hwy 83 from the Holland Lake turn off.
BOB MARSHALL WILDERNESS The Swan Range is located in Northwestern Montana. Within its shadow lies portions of the Bob Marshall Wilderness on the east and the fabulous lake filled Seeley/Swan Valley on the west.
The glaciated valleys running off the Swan Range host a plethora of wild animals such as elk, deer, moose, goats, black bear, grizzly bear, wolf as well as mountain lion. They also contain lakes and rivers that provide rewarding fishing for cutthroat trout and bull trout.
Most of the climbing in the Swan Range is demanding and requires frustrating bushwhacks on most approaches. Challenging route finding presents opportunities to hone navigation skills prior to reaching enjoyable ridges that lead to summits that offer rewarding views.
GIRARD LARCH GROVE "GUS" Trees grow big in the water-abundant Seeley-Swan valleys, but the granddaddy of them all is a 1,000-year-old western larch, known locally as Gus. A gentle, mile-long nature trail loops through the Girard Grove near the western shore of Seeley Lake.
There's plenty of big trees in this 250-acre grove, averaging perhaps 600 years old, but Gus stands out as the champion. In fact, Gus appears to be the largest larch tree in the world among the 10 species found primarily in North America, Asia and Europe.
GLACIER PARKWAY via HWY 83 On your way to Glacier or Yellowstone?
The roughly 90-mile Seeley-Swan highway, also know as Glacier Parkway, connects the Flathead and Blackfoot valleys. It runs southeast/northwest between the Mission Mountain and Swan Mountain Range past the largest and last natural chain of mountain lakes, including Salmon Lake and Seeley Lake.
Following along the Swan River, the first major lake you hit is the Swan on your right. It is the largest of hundreds of lakes scattered throughout the valley. At the lake’s southern end is a national wildlife refuge.
There are wildlife viewing areas, pullouts, trailheads, and water access points all along the road.
The region has a wide array of wildlife, including numerous waterfowl species, elk, moose, and a diverse assortment of fish for anglers. It’s also a habitat corridor for threatened grizzly bears. The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex parallels the highway to the east.
A word of caution: Highway 83 is notoriously crowded with deer in the mornings and evenings, and the trees come right up to the road in many places. But the deer are sparse during the day.
MOUNTAIN BIKING &
SEELEY CREEK TRAILS A network of stacked loops offering trips in length of 1 to 6 miles with the possibility of using connecting trail segments to lengthen the ride. The distant side of the trail system also connects to the forest road system for a lengthy ride up Rice Ridge.
The trails were developed for cross-country skiing in relatively gentle terrain. There is a good variety of rolling grades and curves with no extreme pitches.
Clearing limits are wide. Setting is mostly forested, with a few clearings created by logging. Big game (deer, elk, bear) as well as small animals and fauna inhabit the area.
RIVER RAFTING &
BLACKFOOT RIVER Formed in part by glaciers, this gorgeous river winds through towering cliff lined canyons and ponderosa forests just north of town. You will find deep emerald green pools, boulder strewn pocket water, rapids, and long riffled runs all occupied by eager cutthroat, rainbow, brown, and the occasional bull trout.
The Blackfoot gained fame in Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It, and as a result intense conservation and rehabilitation efforts have returned this watershed to its former glory.
This is big bug water where trout are ready to ambush anything that lands on the surface. Immense stonefly hatches get this river going in the spring and terrestrials along with a sprinkling of mayflies and caddis keep the trout well fed throughout the year. While a great dry fly river, this is also our favorite streamer water as well.
Lots of opportunities are the norm on the Blackfoot, and while the average size trout is a little smaller than the Bitterroot or Clark Fork, there are true giants lurking here. Rainbows and Browns to 25+” are not unheard of and the chance to tangle with a bull trout over 30” is a possibility at any moment. A trip through the box canyon of the Blackfoot is an experience not to be missed. Simply put, Blackfoot River fly fishing offers world class opportunities at classic BIG Montana fish!
CLEARWATER RIVER If you are in the mood for a slow, relaxing float down a beautiful river, this trail is a must. The Clearwater River is one of the best places to view wildlife in the valley.
Bald eagles, white tail deer, moose, muskrat, beaver, loon and turtles to name a few animals common to this river environment. Along the canoe trail there are several grassy openings and sandy banks to pull over your boat and enjoy a little picnic or just play in the water.
Complete with a spectacular view of the Mission & Swan Mountains set at a leisurely pace, this 3 ½ mile float will require a camera and about 2 hours of your time.
MORRELL LOOKOUT Fire lookouts have been used in the west since the early 1900s. Mt. Morrell and Holland Ridge lookouts were built in 1921. This lookout is listed on the National Historic Lookout Register.
The 2860 foot elevation gain from the valley bottom at Cottonwood Lakes puts you 7706 feet above sea level. The journey provides an opportunity to experience a variety of habitats. The road at lower elevations passes through a logged area showing various stages of tree regeneration.
At almost 8000 feet elevation, there will be snow on the peak most years in July. Wildflowers bloom nearly all summer. One should not be surprised to see bears, montain goats, deer, elk, coyotes, mountain lions, chipmunks, gopers, ground squirrels, rabbits, and several species of birds.
The three main lakes visible are Seeley Lake (W) Placid Lake (SW) and Browns Lake (SE). Six other lookouts can be spotted. Three active: Stark, Union Peak, and Saddle Mountain. Three inactive: East Spread, Double Arrow and
DOUBLE ARROW LOOKOUT The Double Arrow Lookout offers guests a chance to see the Seeley valley and the adjacent Swan Mountains from a different and unique vantage point, high above the hillside. The tower contains a few modern amenities, including electricity, but allows guests to personalize their visits with their own supplies. A variety of recreational opportunities exist in the surrounding mountains, but the view is usually what attracts people to the tower.
The lookout is a 14-by-14 structure atop a 20 foot tower. It was built in 1933 and staffed by Forest Service employees until the mid-80s, when it was opened to the public for recreation purposes. The tower is now listed on the National Historic Lookout Register.
The forest contains a wide variety of trees, plants and wildlife, and is home to mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk, moose, deer and grizzly and black bears (learn about bear safety). Both the bald and golden eagle reside in the forest, along with trumpeter swan, herons and dozens of varieties of ducks.