Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
1,181.00 ft (359.97 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
5.80 mi (9.33 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.

Woods Gulch is one of many trailheads to explore in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area on the edge of Missoula. Woods Gulch is a jumping-off point for hiking destinations in the Rattlesnake NRA, including Sheep Mountain, which is accessible with an eleven-mile hike from the trailhead. For those with less time to hike (like after a workday), the Three Larches Trail is also accessible from the Woods Gulch Trailhead. This beautiful trail provides a low-work high-reward hike that can be done in under three hours.

Though not the most popular trailhead in the Rattlesnake, parking is a little tight at Woods Gulch with only pull-outs lining the roadside. The trail starts with a moderate grade on Sheep Mountain Trail #513 for the first 1.3 miles. Users looking to get to Sheep Mountain follow this singletrack for 11 miles. Users heading to Three Larches take a cut-off trail that leads to the left.

After some significant climbing, Three Larches Trail flattens out once it connects to a retired forest service road. Along this road are the trail’s namesake features - three beautiful larch trees that warrant a visit in the fall. The forest road section has a few uphill portions, but in general, is pretty mellow and offers abundant views of the surrounding lush landscape full of pine trees.

The portion of Three Larches Trail where the forest road peters out into singletrack is a magical area that feels miles away from the city. Sunsets are a particularly lovely time as the fading light cuts through the trees. Take your time up here before heading down to connect back with the Sheep Mountain Trail and retrace your steps back to the car.  

Because of its proximity to Missoula, Three Larches Trail is a popular quick fix for hiking after work. Hikers should also expect mountain bikers on the trail. The steady incline and rock-free trail also entice trail runners.

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Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Smooth trail. Longer options extend from the area.

Cons

Limited/tight parking

Trailhead Elevation

3,773.00 ft (1,150.01 m)

Highest point

4,954.00 ft (1,509.98 m)

Features

Wildlife
Family friendly
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Bird watching

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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