Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
800.00 ft (243.84 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
5.90 mi (9.50 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Rattlesnake National Recreation Area is Missoula’s backyard playground. Less than 15 minutes from downtown, the recreation area encompasses 28,000 acres, including thousands of acres of the Rattlesnake Wilderness. Over 70 miles of trails wind throughout this vast public space.

The Historic Curry Cabin and Sawmill Gulch Loop offers a great introduction to the Rattlesnake. The hike is less than six miles and hits four significant drainages: Sawmill Gulch, Curry Gulch, Spring Gulch, and Rattlesnake Creek.

The looped hike starts and ends at the opposite sides of the busy Main Rattlesnake Parking Lot. Hikers can head in either direction and won’t be disappointed. This guide goes counter-clockwise, starting the hike on the eastern side of the parking lot on Rattlesnake Creek.

The Rattlesnake Creek Trail is hard to miss. It’s actually a retired road which leaves plenty of room for cross-flowing traffic. This main Rattlesnake Trail extends deep into the recreation area and connects with several other hikes. To reach the Historic Curry Cabin, hikers follow Rattlesnake Creek's flat path for less than a half-mile before connecting with Spring Gulch. 

The route begins to ascend after connecting with Spring Gulch. This is the same trail that users take to reach the top of Stuart Peak and the wilderness boundary. Hikers heading to Curry Cabin stay on the Spring Gulch Trail for 0.9 miles before connecting with the Curry Gulch trail. 

After veering left into Curry Gulch, the trail continues to climb for another mile until reaching a signpost demarcating proximity to the historic cabin structures. To reach the cabins, take the 0.3-mile side trip up the trail. 

Three recognizable structures greet hikers who make it to Curry Cabin. While one structure is completely toppled within itself, a built-into-the-ground barn still looks pretty good for its age. A third three-walled structure also leans towards the ground nearby. This infrastructure is a testament to the frontier history of the region.  

After taking a moment to appreciate the history on display and reading the sign as to why the barn door is kept locked, hikers make their way back down the 0.3-mile trail to the intersection. At the intersection, continue along the Curry Cut-Off Trail to reach Sawmill Gulch. 

This entire section is also popular with mountain bikers, and hikers should try to keep their ears on alert for fast-moving riders. Banks and berms are built into the trail periodically. It’s mostly downhill after seeing Curry Cabin. The trail meanders through a lush forest with occasional views of the nearby Missoula valley. 

It’s just under two miles on the Curry Cut-Off Trail and Sawmill Gulch Trail to reach an alternative parking lot for Sawmill Gulch. This small parking space is at the end of a one-lane road leading from the main parking lot. 

If starting and ending from the main parking lot, instead of trekking on this one-lane road, take the marked Ewok Trail instead. This flowy singletrack parallels the road and leads hikers to the main parking area to complete the loop. 

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Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Cool historic cabin. Rolling topography. Optional side trails for longer routes.

Trailhead Elevation

3,605.00 ft (1,098.80 m)

Highest point

4,387.00 ft (1,337.16 m)

Features

Vault toilet
Historically significant
Wildlife
Family friendly
Wildflowers

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Biking

Permit required

No

Location

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Flathead lake + Mission Range, Montana
Flathead lake + Mission Range, Montana

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