Camping, Hiking and Traveling in Montana

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Hike Index
H=Hike   C=Camp   V=Visit     S=Ski

Livingston Area
  Elephanthead Mtn. H

Paradise Valley
  S. Fk. Deep Creek H
  Pine Creek H,C
  George Lake H
  Passage Creek Falls H
  Crow Mountain H

Big Timber Area
  Boulder River H,C,V
  Natural Bridge Falls H,C,V
  Big Timber Creek Falls  H,C,V
  West Boulder Meadows H,C
  Twin Lakes  H,C
  Prairie Dog State.Park   V

Bozeman Area
  
Chestnut Mountain H
  Goose Creek H,S
  Mystic Lake H
  Lava Lake H

Central Montana
  Little Belt Mountains H,C,V,S
  Castle Mountains H,C
  Central MT Railroading V
  Cooney Reservoir C,V
  Crystal Lake H,C,V
  Judith Mountains V
  Judith Gap Wind Farm V
  Moccasin Mountains V

The Yellowstone River
  Upper Yellowstone Floating
  Yankee Jim Canyon

Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness
  Anvil Lake H,C
  Beartooth Lake H,C,V
  Beartooth Highway V
  Island Lake H,C,V

Western Montana
  Painted Rocks Rec Area V,C
  Salmon Lake State Park V,C
  Warm Spring Ponds  V


Passage Creek Falls


     Passage Creek Falls is a popular destination for day hikers in the Bozeman/Livingston area. The hike to Passage creek Falls is 4 miles round-trip on an easy trail. Located in the Mill Creek drainage south of Livingston, Passage Creek is a great place to take a hike. It's a major trail that begins as a combined Passage Creek & Wallace Creek trail. The Passage Creek trail peels off well before the falls while the Wallace Creek trail continues on for many miles as it connects to the trail system in the vast Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness north of Yellowstone Park.

     The Passage Creek Falls trailhead is very easy to find. Drive south from Livingston US 89 through the Paradise Valley for 26 miles until you reach the well signed major intersection with the Mill Creek Road. Turn left (east) and you will very quickly cross the Yellowstone River and reach an intersection with Hwy 540, the East River Road. Go straight ahead on the Mill Creek Road which takes you through ranch land as you climb toward the approaching mountains. After 5 - 6 miles the road will change to gravel as you reach the Gallatin National Forest boundary. From here on the road is an excellent gravel road that is suitable for most vehicles in normal weather conditions.
Passage Creek Falls Trail
     The Passage Creek/Wallace Divide trail begins with a bridge across Mill Creek. The water you see is Passage Creek but it is actually entering Mill Creek immediately below the bridge. From here, the trail is easy hiking as it follows the creek upstream..

     Continue on the Mill Creek Road (forest road 486) and in about 6 miles you will reach the Snowbank Campground, a US Forest Service facility. It at this point that the road is closed to vehicle traffic during the winter months. Mill Creek is a popular destination for cross country skiing, dog sleds and snowmobiles and vehicles are restricted to the roads below the campground. Those interested in skiing the Passage Creek trail will park here and continue by skiing on the nearly flat road.

    The Passage Creek trailhead is about 3 more miles so continue on the road. As you drive you will notice the several private cabins as well as a church camp. The road is right next to the creek and you will also see numerous turnoffs and undeveloped campsites along the road. Many people are unaware that unless specifically posted otherwise, the national forest lands are open for camping wherever you find a nice site. If you are interested in this type of camping be sure to check out our information about undeveloped campsites 

Trail to Passage Creek Falls
   There is a section of private land that is totally surrounded by National Forest right near Passage Creek Falls. When you reach this meadow the trail keeps you out of the private lands..
     The Passage Creek Falls trailhead is the same as the Wallace Creek Trail trailhead and the sign for the access is very obvious. It will be on the right side of the road as you drive up the canyon and the parking area is right between the road and Mill Creek. The parking lot is large as the Wallace Creek Trail is a high use trail for horse packing. Despite being a high use area, there is no water or toilets so come prepared.

     The trail is very obvious as you immediately cross Mill Creek on a large bridge. Much of the entire Mill Creek drainage burned in the 2007 Wicked Fire and the bridge is new since the fire. The trail is wide and smooth as it was once a road bed. After a distance it becomes a standard single track trail but it remains an easy hike. As previously stated, there is a lot of horse traffic on the trail and it is not unusual to find signs of their passing. Speaking of passing, if you ever encounter a horse on the trail please step off the trail as far as you can to allow them to safely pass.

Passage Creek Falls Gallatin National Forest
   Passage Creek Falls is a beautiful place to visit. The trail takes you to a great viewpoint at creek level. It is only about a 4 mile round trip to visit the falls.
   After about a mile and a quarter the Passage Creek Falls trail splits off to the right from the Wallace Creek trail. This is a well signed intersection and you should have no trouble finding it. Take the right hand fork and continue on with an excellent trail, flat and wide. You will cross the creek on another bridge and from here the trail begins to narrow and steepen. Although it never gets too steep, the trail climbs until you reach a large clearing with the trail leading straight ahead. Unfortunately, this entire clearing is part of a private in-holding in the Gallatin Forest. There are a number of cabins in the area and the entire section is private property. Never trespass on these properties.
     
     Just as you reach the private lands the trail to the bottom of Passage Creek Falls splits off the the left. A well established trail continues on straight ahead at this junction.The area is usually shaded and cool which is very welcome on a hot summer day. Although you reach the creek there is no place to safely swim, wade or cool off in the water so stay well away from the stream banks. The Forest Service has done some stabilization work on the areas where the trail ends and there are a couple of great place to sit back and enjoy the falls. When you are ready just retrace the trail back to your car.
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     Passage Creek Falls is a popular trail so don't expect to be on it alone; especially, if you are out on the weekend. There is a reason it's popular. It's an easy hike with easy access that gets you to a great destination. It's only a 4 mile round trip so its within the hiking abilities of most people and the trail itself is mostly broad and smooth. This is a great hike for those with kids or those who don't have much time.

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