Thursday, April 06, 2017

Wagner Basin spectacle

In Wagner Basin below Castle Reef 
Three rams in one of the three bands of bighorn sheep we encountered

Nice drop off on ridge line 

Wayne Phillips enjoys the view from the ridge
Although I haven't posted for a few weeks it doesn't mean I haven't been out and about.
I have given up on backcountry skiing, though, and begun hiking.
I've scaled Mount Sentinel in Missoula and Mount Helena, done a short trip on the Pioneer Ridge in the Little Belts, and Wednesday did a spectacular hike in the Wagner Basin of the Sun Canyon in the Rocky Mountain Front west of Augusta.
There are no designated trails in this open area beneath Castle Reef and along the Sun River. Access is from Home Gulch and a small parking area at the southern tip of the reef. We walked beneath the reef along a number of cliff bands, gaining and losing about 2,300 feet on the 5.3 mile hike. We saw three bands of bighorn sheep and many whitetail deer that love the willow covered Sun River bottom. We saw early spring flowers like the pink/purple Douglasia, and Pasque Flower.
This simple hike delivers some of the best of the east side Bob Marshall Country:  high, snow-covered peaks, and fabulous vistas.
Indian pictographs/handprints

Driving to the canyon we stopped by the Sun River Game Range viewing area and could spot easily 1,000 elk grazing beneath Sawtooth Mountain.
Wagner Basin is a good choice this time of year because the elevation is windblown and there is no snow to contend with.  There was snow above 6,500 feet, however.
After the hike we stopped by the bridge over the Sun near the Gibson Dam road to view Indian pictographs.
Beware:  the ticks are out.

For map, more photos, CLICK HERE.

The basin's famous "skull tree" of birds painting on deer skulls and hung from the tree 
Douglasia wildflowers in bloom

We encountered a few patches of snow 
The bushwhack along the Sun River bottom


Johnathan Bardsley said...

Hi Tom. I'm considering a May 20 trip up to that area. Do you think it will be snow free enough to climb Sawtooth Ridge and Castle Reef then? Thanks!

Tom Kotynski said...

Yes, Johnathan, I think in most years, barring the dreadful Memorial Day storm, particularly Castle Reef is climbable. Sometimes Sawtooth can be tricky until June.