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Boulder Falls, Montana

Boulder Falls is a fairly large set of falls located on Boulder Creek near Connor, Montana. Boulder Creek travels down Boulder Canyon from high in the Bitterroot Mountains.

The canyon is tucked between some dramatic peaks, which add to the enjoyment when hiking to these falls.

Boulder Falls is located in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, which is a federally designated wilderness area that is intended to protect critical habitats.

While dogs and horses are allowed in this area, hikers are encouraged to ensure that their pets are leashed for their safety and the safety of the wildlife in the area.

The best time to see Boulder Falls is in the spring during run-off. During this time the falls are the most dramatic and are quite impressive.

This hike can be challenging during the spring as the trail tends to be snow-covered, at least in sections well into early June. The falls themselves actually cover a few drops that cover a few hundred feet along the creek.

Boulder Falls Statistics

  • Elevation: 5,400 feet
  • Height: Unknown
  • Trailhead: Boulder Creek Trailhead (Trail 617)
  • Season (when can it be accessed): April to October

Recreational Activities Near Boulder Falls

recreational activities near boulder falls

Boulder Falls is located in the Bitterroot National Forest. The National Forest area has plenty of opportunities for recreation near Boulder Falls and the surrounding area.

Hiking

Boulder Falls is accessed from Montana Road 473. This road travels north to south from Conner, MT.

There are a number of trailhead and trail access points along Road 473. There are numerous hiking trails that offer a variety of hikes that range from challenging to fairly easy.

The Bitterroot National Forest website had plenty of information about hiking trails in the Boulder Falls and Boulder Creek area.

Specifically, the Boulder Creek area has two distinct trailhead locations that start you towards a variety of trails that head west into the Bitterroot Mountains and toward the Idaho border.

Kayaking

Boulder Creek and many of its tributaries are considered some of the best kayaking water in the state of Montana.

With plenty of snow melt from the Bitterroot range, these creeks and streams fill with water in the spring and stay swift moving for most of the summer and fall.

There are guides in Connor, Darby, and Hamilton that can suggest the best runs, put-in and take-out locations. They can also guide you away from stream areas that are dangerous or may not have enough water for a good run.

Camping

Along Road 473 you’ll find plenty of great camping. The Forest Service operates three campgrounds in this area.

The Boulder Creek Campground, Little West Fork Campground, and ROMBO Creek Campground. These three camping areas provide nice established camping sites with minimal amenities.

These sites generally have fire rings and picnic tables. You’ll also find that these three campgrounds also have sites that are large enough for small travel trailers or campers.

To access the Boulder Creek Campground you will turn off of Road 473 toward the Sam Billings Recreation Area.

Trail Routes Near Boulder Falls

Boulder Creek/Falls

boulder creek
Image: James St. John

If you are looking for this hike on the Forest Service website, you’ll want to look for Trail 617 for Boulder Creek.

This trail is a 7-mile out-and-back hike with a fair amount of elevation gain (800 feet). This trail follows Boulder Creek through Boulder Canyon. Boulder Creek itself has carved its way down the exposed bedrock that forms the canyon.

The trail wanders through a beautiful forest that is very enjoyable, particularly in the spring when the wildflowers are blooming and run-off is in full swing.

This trail can be muddy in the spring, and in early spring you’ll find parts of the trail still covered in snow.

Trapper Peak

trapper peak
Image: Forest Service Northern Region

Before you even get to the trailhead for Trapper Peak, you’ll have to drive a good distance on FS Road 5630.

The trailhead to Trapper Peak starts at the end of this Forest Service road. This is considered a fairly difficult hike, due to the steep elevation gain and the boulder field that must be traversed in order to reach the summit of Trapper Peak.

This is an 8.1-mile out and back hike with nearly 4,000 feet of elevation gain. The effort you’ll put in to reach the summit is well worth the work.

The views from the top of the 10,000-foot plus peak are outstanding and will take your breath away.

Baker Lake

baker lake
Image: Tim Bocek

Baker Lake trail is a moderately challenging 2.6-mile, out-and-back trail that takes you from FS Road 5634 to the very pretty Baker Lake. The trail to Baker Lake is well established and easy to follow.

There is 850 feet of elevation gain over the course of the hike, which is covered fairly steadily over the length of the trail.

The hike to the lake is short enough that you may want to bring your fly rod along and see if you can catch a fish in Baker Lake. The lake is very productive and quite clear so you can easily see where the fish are hanging out.

Middle Lake and Gem Lake

middle lake
Image: Tim Bocek

The trail to Middle and Gem Lakes starts at Baker Lake and heads further up the valley to two more lovely lakes.

The total length of the hike to Middle and Gem Lakes is 4.6-miles and you’ll make some pretty decent elevation gains along the way.

From Baker Lake, you’ll stay to the right of the inlet stream and follow the creek to Middle Lake. From this point, Gem lake is not much further, and it is basically the end of the valley.

All three lakes are connected, and it is a fairly easy hike. The rock formations that are around Gem Lake are really interesting and make for great photographs.

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