Although 2017’s Rice Ridge fire burned right to the foot of its namesake waterfall, the trail up Morrell Creek remains a pleasant and popular adventure on the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
And for a while in 2018, much of the trail features morel mushrooms sprouting from the forest fire’s ashes. The edible, honeycomb-shaped mushroom is one of the first things to grow back the summer after a fire.
While many assume the mapmakers misspelled the mushroom, the double-consonant version on the creek, lake, waterfall and mountain peak actually refers to Charles T. Morrell, a Helena sporting-goods store owner.
The Morrell Creek Trail starts at the end of Forest Road 4364, a short drive from the north end of the town of Seeley Lake. The gentle hike climbs about 100 feet in elevation, although it does it in several ups and downs over its 2.7-mile length.
Hikers will see a range of fire scars, from incinerated tree trunks to light brush-blackening. Trail crews have cleared most of the blow-down trees from the path, although new ones appear regularly. A spur trail to an overlook above the 90-foot-high waterfall was extensively damaged and eroded after the fire, and has not been reopened.
A few undeveloped campsites dot the shoreline of little Morrell Lake, a few hundred yards before the waterfall appears. A few trout have been seen feeding in the lake, as have a few moose. The area is also grizzly bear country, so bring bear spray and follow all food safety orders.
The truly adventurous can continue up a lightly maintained trail another six miles into Grizzly Basin where high-mountain tarns offer views across the Swan Mountain Range. Consult with the recreation advisors at the Seeley Lake Ranger District north of town about trail conditions and grizzly activity before attempting this longer route.