A trip through the trees

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  • Hiking through a grove of cedars.

  • 1

    From a rocky perch above the trail, a black bear keeps an eye on us.

  • Hiking through a grove of cedars.

  • 1

    From a rocky perch above the trail, a black bear keeps an eye on us.

So last week I got the bright idea to go up on the Swan Front and see if I could see the Snow Creek Fire from Lion Creek Pass.

The hike to Lion Creek Pass is a rather long one — about 10 miles, with plenty of elevation gain — more than 3,400 feet. Sprinkle in a later than usual start and 90-degree heat and you get an even longer walk, especially since more than half of that elevation gain is in the last couple of miles.

I think we drank about two gallons of water apiece.

I’m still thirsty.

The hike itself is almost entirely in the trees, though quite pleasant. You go through some nice groves of cedar on the way up and you also pass by some impressive waterfalls. Lion Creek is a pristine stream, with water so clear it’s almost transparent.

This really isn’t a popular hiking trail, most of the tracks are from outfitters with horse parties — we never saw another hiker, but we did see a couple of horse parties. There’s outfitter camps near Lion Creek in a couple of spots. The biggest critter we saw was a black bear, who rushed up onto the rocks above the trail and gave us the bad eye from behind a bush before taking off for good.

Once at the pass you get a real good look into the Bob Marshall Wilderness — the pass is the boundary — and excellent views of Swan Peak to the north and east. A couple of small lakes on the east side of the pass provide water. Like most passes on the Swan Front, it looks like you can bag a couple of peaks with minimal effort.

We never did see the fire — clouds rolled in and eventually, rain. But such is life. It was super quiet up there, just us and the songbirds.

It was a nice change of pace from the valley, where the din of summertime traffic is beginning to wear on the old nerves.

— Chris Peterson

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