Friday, we hiked the Blodgett Canyon Overlook. This trail is a favorite of ours for a last minute evening hike, due to the easily attainable 2.8 mile total distance out and back. While the trail itself is not the most appealing trail in the Bitterroot Mountains, the views it provides are nothing short of awe inspiring.
The drive out to the Blodgett Canyon Overlook / Canyon Creek Trailhead is somewhat lengthy, like all the nice, short hikes with great rewards. From Main Street in Hamilton, you hop out to Ricketts Road (about 1.3 miles) and make a right. Take Ricketts out for about half a mile to Blodgett Camp Road. Make a left (west, toward the mountains) and follow this road until you hit Canyon Creek Road (about 2.5 miles). Make another left, and follow the (now dirt) road another 2.8 miles to the trailhead, which has plenty of parking, and even some really pretty tent camping spaces right off the parking lot. I’m more of an away from it all kind of camper, but if you don’t mind the occasional trailhead traffic, the campsite is really quite gorgeous (very Pacific Northwest, with moss and damp, dense tree cover and deep shade) and located directly adjacent to Canyon Creek for both ambiance and readily available water. And the trailhead has a bathroom. Well, a vault toilet, anyway. Don’t be picky.
Heading west, out of the the parking lot, you’ll find a trailhead sign directing you further west to Canyon Creek Trail (which leads to both Canyon Falls and Canyon Lake) or north (right), to Blodgett Overlook Trail No. 101. Go that way. Starting off, the Blodgett Overlook Trail climbs steadily up the side of the mountain via several switchbacks with peak-a-boo views, until at last you reach a nice (if narrow) wooden bench for resting, and your first clear view of the valley below. As you can see from the pictures, the view is expansive, and pretty incredible.
After climbing a few more switchbacks, you’ll find a small crossroads, where you’ll have the option to continue your climb straight up or to swing a right and head towards the face of the mountain. The continuation of the trail is to the right; however, if you follow the straight side trail for a bit, you’ll find another convenient bench and a beautiful view of the Canyon Creek drainage. This spot makes a great photo op with large rocks to climb up and pose on with the lovely view in the background. (A picturesque photograph of my parents in this very location hangs on the wall in their living room.)
More or less finished with the switchbacks, the trail runs across the front of the mountain, through thin forest still recovering from the Blodgett Trailhead fire in 2000. It provides some interesting surroundings, but relatively no canopy cover. I wouldn’t recommend this trail on a hot day. (Personally, I wouldn’t recommend leaving the couch on a hot day though. Heat… blech.) The trail at this point is relatively level and more of a walk than a climb, which is a nice change after the initial ascent.
Once across the front of the mountain ridge, you begin another ascent up to the overlook. The trail becomes more lush, with brush and small trees crowding close on either side, and small streams trickling down the mountain. Also, rocks. Watch your step. You’re welcome. After a fairly brief ascent, you make the final climb to the overlook, and BOOM, there it is. The most incredible view I have ever seen in the Bitterroots. No, this is not a heavily edited picture. It actually looks like this, and it takes yours breath away, leaving you at a complete loss for words.
To make the most of your hike and your view, I recommend this as an evening hike. We like to leave ourselves about two hours until sunset. I don’t have a specific time- if you live in the north, you know that sunset changes DRAMATICALLY between spring and fall. If you leave yourself about two hours though, you’ll reach the overlook with about an hour or so until sunset, placing the sun directly in line with the canyon, and providing the most glorious view. I’ve seen pictures of the view at different times of the day. Trust me, this one’s the best. (The time of day, not the picture. Okay, the picture’s pretty awesome too.)
On the way back down the mountain, our timing was so perfect that we were treated to this incredible sight on the other side of the ridge. Again, this is not a heavily edited photograph- it’s just been sharpened. Normally, this is just an average piece of trail with your average Bitterroot scenery, but the sun came through the trees and soaked the underbrush with light- limning every single leaf in gold and fire. Absolutely stunning. What a gift.