A roaring creek, some lingering wildflowers and towering lodgepole pine make for "cool" trek on a hot, August day.
Accessed through Lost Creek State Park near Anaconda, Lost Creek Trail is a one-size-fits-all opportunity for hikers and mountain bikers. The beauty of this "in and out" trail is that it's suitable for young families with small children up to and including recreating senior citizens and everyone in between. Trail-users can tailor the mode of travel, distance and time to suit individual needs, turning around when they've reached the time and/or physical limits of party members.
Lost Creek State Park also offers camp sites, picnic areas and latrines, so hiking can be incorporated into a picnic, day trip or overnight adventure.
Before taking off on the trail, be sure to walk the .1-mile paved trail to Lost Creek Falls. The hike to the falls takes only a few minutes and the 50-foot cascade is too pretty to miss.
The trail is 7.3 miles long and ends at the intersection with Foster Creek Trail. As an aside, Jenni Blake, recreation specialist at the Pintler Ranger District office, said the Foster Creek Trail comes out west of Anaconda on Highway 1 near the Job Corps, for those looking for a longer trek.
In addition to hikers, the Lost Creek Trail "in and out" is popular with mountain bikers. Pete Kurtz, owner of Sven's Bicycles in Anaconda,
recommended the trail as an easy ride for novice mountain bikers.
"The steepest part of the whole trail is the very beginning," he said.
Kurtz has traveled the entire trail numerous times and assisted with the trail description below. He highly recommends the trip for the scenery, alone.
"As far as aesthetics, it's superlative," he said.
- Paula J. McGarvey may be reached via email
If you go:
Following are directions to Lost Creek Trail at Lost Creek State Park, near Anaconda: From Interstate 90 westbound from Butte, take Highway 1, driving toward Anaconda for several miles, then
turning north onto Highway 48, approximately 2 miles east of Anaconda.
Travel about ¼ mile and turn west, or left, onto Highway 273. Travel approximately 2 miles and turn left and continue for 6 miles to the entrance to Lost Creek State Park. Continue into the park, where the road ends in a loop at the trailhead, near the parking area for access to Lost Creek Falls.
There is no day-use fee for vehicles registered in Montana. The fee for day use for non-residents is $5 per vehicle.
Lost Creek Trail, aka Forest Service trail number 8133, is 7.3 miles long or 14.6 miles round trip from the trailhead. The trail runs north of Lost Creek Falls and can be accessed by a gated roadway located just below the Lost Creek Falls trail parking area and adjacent latrine.
The trail ends at the intersection of Foster Creek Trail, aka Forest Service trail number 8045. The trail is mostly easy, but ranges to
moderate in difficulty, with the steepest portion of the trail located at the start.
It alternates between leveling off and climbing for the first mile, and then remains easy for the remaining distance, as it winds along the creek through forest and open grassy areas, offering views of surrounding mountains and cliffs. Bighorn sheep and mountain goats are frequently seen in the park and adjacent area.
After the initial mile of intermittent incline, the trail crosses the creek three times within the next 3.5 miles.
The first is a bridge crossing to the left side of the creek followed by two, additional natural fords. The remaining three miles of trail after the third crossing remain gentle up to the end at the intersection of the Foster Creek Trail. The Lost Creek Trail appears to cross the Foster Creek Trail, and continue, but that trail dead ends approximately ½ mile in, at an old mining cabin, Kurtz said.
If you choose to hike the full 14.6 mile round trip distance, allow at least 4 to 5 hours. The trip takes a notably shorter, 2 to 2 ½ hours by bike.
Dogs in the confines of Lost Creek State Park must remain on a leash. As for wild animals, in addition to sheep and goats, trail users in the early morning or evening hours have frequently reported seeing deer and elk, an occasional black bear, and in one rare instance, a mountain lion, along the trail.