Some of the nicest hikes in the Butte area require a drive to get to the trailhead.
One hike/bike ride taken recently by a Montana Standard staffer is near Fairmont Hot Springs - which is about 15 miles from Butte. Take Interstate 90 westbound, and exit at the Fairmont interchange.
On the two-lane paved highway that leads to the resort, and just before you get there, take a left turn at the brown Forest Service sign that says "German Gulch and High Rye."
From there, it's about a 4-mile drive on a road - it's paved at first but turns into somewhat sedan-friendly hard-packed dirt - to another Forest Service sign that says Beaver Creek. At that junction, turn right and find a place to park.
Now you start riding your bike or walking. (More ambitious bike riders could start this trek at Fairmont.)
OK, it's not a trail - it's a gravel road that climbs gradually for five miles to the top of a ridge. Vehicle-traffic is light, especially on a weekday. You might meet a pickup truck, four-wheeler or rancher out checking his cattle. And, it's a little dusty at this time of year, but the views of the Mount Haggin Wildlife Management Area are spectacular. You can walk the road or ride a mountain bike. It's a climb, and mildly strenuous on a bike, but doable for people with good bike fitness.
En route, you might hear the song of a ruby-crowned kinglet or the squawk of a three-toed woodpecker. Several weeks ago, an amazing presentation of cream-colored beargrass and light blue lupine graced both sides of the road about 4 miles up from where you parked the vehicle. That may have subsided by now, but the views - and further up you can see the East Ridge in Butte - are worth the effort. At the top of the ridge, soak in the scenery then turn back for a whiz-bang bike ride back to your parked vehicle - or an easy hike out.
Last week a reader called The Montana Standard asking if we would include whether a trail profiled in this column allows dogs. This one does - though it's a road and has traffic. Also, there are cattle on summer pasture en route, so it's best and respectful to have a dog that obeys commands and does not chase/harass either cattle or wildlife.
Also, keep in mind, the wildlife management area is closed to motorized traffic from Dec. 1 through May 15.
- Montana Standard staff