Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
1,500.00 ft (457.20 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
8.50 mi (13.68 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.

Within Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, less than 15 minutes from downtown Missoula, this hike traverses a staple trail of the area before winding up singletrack to make a loop. Popular for half-day adventures or quick trail runs, the looped route on Rattlesnake Creek and Spring Gulch offers a quintessential Rattlesnake tour.

The trail begins from the big parking lot of the main Rattlesnake trailhead. The route follows a retired road a to begin with. Dogs are welcomed to enjoy the trail but must remain on a leash for the first 1.7 miles along Rattlesnake Creek, or the first 1.3 miles into Spring Gulch. Just over a mile from the trailhead, hikers encounter a meadow area and the first Spring Gulch / Rattlesnake Creek junction.

Hikers can head either direction at the junction. This guide heads to the right to continue following Rattlesnake Creek. The retired road that is Rattlesnake Creek Trail extends for over 14 miles into the recreation area, eventually providing access into the Rattlesnake Wilderness. Significant landmarks along this wide route include Poe Meadows, Franklin Bridge and access to a Sheep Mountain summit trail. 

For a leisurely afternoon and connection to Spring Gulch, hikers only need to travel for approximately 1.5 miles along Rattlesnake Creek to a junction with the Wallman Trail. Non-bikers can elect for one of the many side trails that parallel the main Rattlesnake Creek Trail. These intertwining trails lead to quiet swimming spots and shadowy alcoves. Be sure to keep following the banks of the creek not to get lost. 

Upon arriving at the Wallman Trail, the upwards hike begins. Following the singletrack through densely packed forest, the trail eventually emerges to a view of the Rattlesnake Creek Valley. The route continues to climb until eventually cresting a small ridge with a partial view. After 2.9 miles on the Wallman Trail, hikers encounter Spring Gulch. 

Spring Gulch Trail is a common corridor for those looking to bag Stuart Peak and head into the Rattlesnake Wilderness. Upon reaching the trail from Wallman, hikers will want to head left and downhill to get back to the trailhead. The 2.5-mile route back is smooth sailing much of the way. After hitting the junction, the hike ends as it began with a rouglhy one mile trek on the main Rattlesnake Creek Trail. 

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Easy access from Missoula. Different trail routes available. Dogs are welcome.

Cons

None.

Trailhead Elevation

3,594.00 ft (1,095.45 m)

Highest point

4,969.00 ft (1,514.55 m)

Features

Vault toilet
Near lake or river
Wildlife
Family friendly
Wildflowers

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Biking

Permit required

No

Location

Nearby Adventures

Missoula + Bitterroot Mountains, Montana
Missoula + Bitterroot Mountains, Montana

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