Hiking the Western Trail of Montana

The Great Western Trail has become one of the most popular and treasured National Parks in the country. The trail runs through five states across the upper Midwest, running from Canada into Mexico. The trail has access for motorized and non-movable users and covers 4,546 miles (7,172 kilometers) between Arizona, Utah, Idaho, and Montana. The trail is managed by the National Park Service, which has a map of the trail that is printed in book form and includes recommendations for parking, maps of all sections of the trail, and warnings about possible wildlife activity. Other organizations help preserve the trail, such as the Grand Canyon Trust.

The Western Trail passes through three countries: Texas, Montana, and New Mexico. Access to the trail is difficult in some areas due to the lack of roads or other means of travel. Two small bridges across Yuma Creek that provides access to the western trail from Wickenburg, California and Pinedale, Colorado. Crossing the bridge just before dark allows you to see the Bitterroots River and to navigate your way through brush. Another option is to travel south a little further along the trail to reach Cedar Crest and then to explore the Three Creek Campgrounds.

In the western trail, you’ll find spectacular scenery, aspen groves, tall pines, juniper woodlands, beautiful wildflowers in spring, abundant wild bird species, and numerous creeks and rivers where you can wade, fish, or bike. The trail also has a section marked off for walking. This trail is located in Casper, Wyoming. The route of this trail starts at the Casper National Forest Service road, but can be found fairly easily by driving a short distance north.

Just west of Wheatgrass City, you will come to Bitterroots River, an excellent location to camp on the banks of the Bitterroots River. Camping here provides amazing views of the surrounding area, including the Three Forks Campgrounds. Continuing on past Wheatgrass City, the trail makes a turn to the left, going down to a Cabin Trail that crosses the Bitterroots River just before turning left to go back to the direction of the road. Finally, cross the Bitterroots River on a bridge before turning left and traveling back to the western trail head. This bridge is accessible from the parking area just west of Wheatgrass City.

Moving toward Fort Washakieja, you will come across Mountain Laurel Loop just before reaching the trail head for Mountain Laurel Camp. The trail then makes a left turn to go back on the Mountain Laurel Loop road. The next portion of the trail includes three miles of hiking along the Big Horn Ranch roadbed. At this point, the trail makes another left turn and goes directly onto the Mountain Laurel Loop road. It then make another left and finally comes back on the path to the right for the final stretch of the hike.

Other notable landmarks include the Mountain Laurel Loop, Old Ragworm Hollow, Cabin Trail, Bitterroots River, Mountain Laurel Camp, and Old Ragworm Creek. The entire route of the Western Trail follows the alignment of the original mining camp. This route has been maintained by the Bureau of Land Management in order to preserve the historical landscape. Other smaller, less well-known roads have been developed to assist those interested in a more modern camping experience.

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