Explore Montana: Hike Blodgett Canyon in the Bitterroot
Blodgett Canyon is home to cheap thrills for little the effort. Beginning up the Canyon Creek Trail (Road #735) and ending at Romney Ridge, the Blodgett Canyon Overlook trail is just 1.5 miles in length (or 3 miles roundtrip).
– Beginning elevation: 5,000 feet – Ending elevation: 6,100 feet – Elevation gain: 1,100 feet –
The site of a human ignited burn (11,486 acres of it) during the hot, dry summer of 2000 (someone left a campfire on), this Bitterroot hike remains largely exposed, arid and sunny so bring water and hydrate your dog (Pit Bull Kelvin got heat stroke here once).
Blodgett Canyon Overlook trail winds along with views of the Sapphire Mountain Range, which according to Geologists was formed some 70 million years ago when it slid off the Bitterroot.
Essentially, at that time (approximately 70 million years prior to today), the earth’s crust in the Bitterroot Valley was comprised of a granite rock “heart” and a sedimentary rock “skin.” Both the Bitterroot range and the Sapphire were formed when an intrusion of molten magma (i.e. a mass of hot liquid rock, volatiles and solids located underground) pummeled through the earth’s crust.
With this push the granite heart became the Bitterroot range and the sedimentary skin trickled off to create the Sapphire.
As the Bitterroot shed the weight of its heavy sedimentary skin it rose even higher and cold temperatures at these lofty elevations provided optimal conditions for glaciers.
These glaciers carved the Bitterroot into the U-shaped valleys separated by sharp, jagged peaks and ridges that we see today.
Unlike the tall, protruding Bitterroot Range, the Sapphire Mountains are stubbier. Low and rounded, they have never been glaciated and are composed of sedimentary rather than granite rock.
To get here: From Missoula, take US-93 S for 34 miles. Take a right on Bowman Road. In .7 miles turn left at Ricketts Road. Drive for 2 miles and continue onto Blodgett Camp Road for 1.8 miles. Turn right to stay on Blodgett Camp Rd and after about .3 miles turn left at Forest Service Road #735.