Thursday, June 18, 2015

A quick run into Pretty Prairie in the Bob

Where the West and South forks of the Sun River come together in the Bob

A small portion of the Pretty Prairie

The ranger station
I've often done this as a 15-mile roundtrip day hike, but decided I needed some time alone in the backcountry and did it as an overnighter.
This is a trip that highlights the river rather than the mountains, although surrounding mountains are impressive.  The approach is through a pretty intense burn.
Start at the Benchmark South Fork Sun River trailhead, cross the pack bridge over the South Fork in a half mile. 
It's about 5 miles to the West Fork pack bridge, mostly through a recent burn, where small lodgepoles and abundant vegetation is a testament to its rebirth.  At the West Fork packbridge the trail splits.  Go west and you're headed to the Chinese Wall. 
My campsite in the prairie
Go east and it's about about 2 miles to Pretty Prairie.  Most of the traffic heads to the Wall.  The final 2 miles follows the West Fork to its junction with the South Fork, where the South Fork becomes a major river in the Spring. 
The trail travels high above rivers and the sight of the two coming together is remarkable.  Both rivers are extremely beautiful, running a transluscent green color.  Both are great fishing.  Pretty Prairie is just what the name says, a pretty prairie surrounded by (burnt) mountains, with islands of trees that were untouched by fire. 
Set back in the prairie against one of the limestone walls is a Forest Service cabin.  The prairie was full of flowers and the spring grass was lush.  Prairie Creek cuts across the center of the 1.5 mile long prairie, roaring all the way, competing with the noisy South Fork. 
There are numerous campsites, including full-fledged hunters' camps all along Pretty Prairie.  They are all good, if a bit horsey, so I had a difficult time choosing.  I saw no one for the time I was there despite the excellent weather.
A hiker and dog from Bozeman headed for the Chinese Wall

The West Fork pack bridge

The South Fork Sun from a camp site

No comments: