Sunday, April 10, 2016

Spring ritual: Sleeping Giant Wilderness Study Area

Mark Hertenstein on the ridge line

Heading back to Spring Creek

The pink Douglasia alpine flower put on quite a show
This 8 mile hike into the Sleeping Giant Wilderness Study Area between Great Falls and Helena, involving about 3,000 feet of elevation gain has become an early spring ritual.
We don't climb the Giant's nose; that's a different approach the involves traveling from private land near the Sieben Ranch.
We entered this BLM area from the Woodsiding Road about 5 miles south of Wolf Creek.
The road is gated, so we gained a rocky ridge immediately south of the gate and used it to hike off-trail to the road to the Sleeping Giant trailhead.  From there we walked up the trail, really an old road, to a high point where we had 360 views of mountain ranges and Holter Lake.  We could see to the Continental Divide, Great Divide ski area, the Elkhorns, Big Belts, Flint Creek, Adels, Little Belts mountain ranges.
There was an incredible display of bright pink Douglasia alpine flowers and many others.  We descended directly down into a tributary of Spring Creek, climbing about 500 feet out of it to reach the ridge where we had began and then back to the car.
The area is marked by grass on the high, exposed ridgelines, and large Ponderosa pine trees.
Later in the season, when the snow is off the road, it can be driven to the trailhead if you havet high clearance and don't mind wrecking your car, or more easily to an area where horses are trailered.
This hike was largely off-trail because we wanted to have a backcountry experience....and did!

For a topo map of our hike, and other photos, CLICK HERE

Much of the area is marked by open, grassy slopes

The canyon walls of Spring Creek tributary

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