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West Fork Boulder River

Intermediate
 4.8 (4) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

Get yourself deep into the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness to the base of Mount Cowan.


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Map Key

26.2

Miles

42.2

KM

Out and Back

8,030' 2,448 m

High

5,666' 1,727 m

Low

2,583' 787 m

Up

2,582' 787 m

Down

4%

Avg Grade (2°)

13%

Max Grade (8°)

Dogs Unknown

Features Cave · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Overview

A long and relatively low-elevation hike that allows hikers to hit the trail before the snow in the high country has melted out.

Description

Drive through cattle country the edge of the Forest to the West Fork Boulder River Road deep into the heart of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness until the road ends at the trailhead. From here set off for as much or as little of the 13+ miles you can walk on this trail which ultimately dead ends in the basin below the impressive Mount Cowan.

The trail meanders through small, open meadows and into and out of large, old stands of conifers. Large boulders frame the sides of the trails and the same can be found down in the River making for many impressive and soothing sounding rapids. The trail gains very minimal elevation along its first 10+ miles and it's not until reaching the headwaters that any strenuous hiking really gets underway.

Options to make it this a more epic hike could include heading up and over Mill Creek Pass into the Mill Creek drainage, but that must be saved for a time when the high country is snow-free. The overall length of this valley will allow for great solitude especially if the intrepid hiker is willing to get their feet (and knees and maybe thighs!) wet with a crossing of the river to the opposite, seldom-visited side.

Contacts

Shared By:

Sam H

Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 4 votes

#2178

Overall
  4.8 from 4 votes
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Recommended Route Rankings

#58

in Montana

#2,178

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3,901 Since Apr 24, 2015
Intermediate

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Photos

The West Fork of the Boulder River drainage.
Apr 24, 2015 near Livingston, MT
The impressive West Fork of the Boulder River drainage.
Apr 24, 2015 near Livingston, MT
This crossing is tough when you are hiking at high water, as my dad and I did last week. If you don't want to get wet, though, you can walk across tree trunks that have fallen across the river.
Jun 5, 2015 near Livingston, MT

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Check-Ins

Oct 25, 2019
Dave Josephsen
muddy! 3mi — 2h 45m
Jul 31, 2017
Zach Ware