East of Marias Pass, this out-and-back makes for a beautiful hike on the east side of the Continental Divide. This route front-loads the effort as it's almost all uphill to Firebrand Pass with a scenic descent looking a new direction heading back the way you came.
Finding the trailhead can be tricky, as it's not signed from the road at all. Look for a pullout on the west side of the road near mile marker 203. Once across the railroad tracks, you can see a park service sign and the wonderful trail begins.
Initially, you traverse across grassy meadows lined with aspens. After bouncing in and out of these aspens with views of the mountains at Marias Pass, the trail turns north and begins to gain elevation through a stand of lodgepole pines. The trees transition into alpine meadows with subalpine firs and great views of the crumbling mountains.
As you turn up the drainage, flowers pop in the summer and even into the fall. Huckleberries are frequent in September. Eventually the trail wraps west, then south into the huge bowl below the pass. Gray trees from an old fire give the place an otherworldly feel. The constant wind and low rainfall keeps the vegetation to low growing plants that carpet the valley floor and disappear to the shale that leads up to the pass.
The trail has a couple of nice switchbacks and a traverse to the pass itself. Hold onto your hat as the wind frequently howls. From there, you can head back down or take a goat trail along the other side of the bowl back down to the trail or to a side lake called Lena Lake.
This content was created by Jake Bramante of Hike 734. Visit hike734.com
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Due to some north facing aspects that harbor snow late into the year, flowers can be found from May until late September. Mostly alpine flowers such as Yellow Columbine, Subalpine Spiraea, and Fireweed.