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

South Fork Deep Creek in Paradise Valley 

     The South Fork Deep Creek trail is a wonderful hiking trail located just a few minutes south of Livingston, Montana. Accessing the north end of the Absaroka Mountains, this lightly-used trail offers great hiking over a variety of terrain. Most people enjoy the trail as a day hike but it ties into an extensive trail network that offers backpackers some great hiking opportunities.

     To reach the trailhead travel south from Livingston, MT on Hwy 89. About 5 miles south of town a branch road to the left, MT 540 or East River Road, crosses the Yellowstone River and parallels the river on the east side. Follow this road for about 7 miles. There are several access roads that turn left and lead toward the mountains along MT 540. The first major road you come to accesses Suce Creek. A few miles later the road dips down to cross Deep Creek and another road to the left follows the creek. Continue on and within a half mile you will see the Forest Service sign that indicates South Fork of Deep Creek. Turn left on a gravel road that runs straight as an arrow up the mountain for less than a mile and ends in the parking lot for the trail. There are no facilities at this trailhead so don't expect anything.
View from S. Fk. Deep Creek
     The first section of the trail climbs up the bare ridge that  faces Paradise Valley. The view from the ridge line is great.

     The trail goes past the sign posts and up the big ridge that stares you in the face. This is an open exposure and it takes a while to switchback to the ridge line where the trail crosses into dense forest and drops down to the creek. South Fork Deep Creek is a beautiful stream that comes out of the Absaroka Mountains. Unfortunately, the trail is close to the creek for only a short distance and you soon reach the creek crossing and begin to switch back up the opposite hillside leaving the creek behind. This is a stretch of beautiful trail that works its way through woods and clearings climbing upward and soon entering the Absaroka/Beartooth Wilderness.

     This is a typical Absaroka/Beartooth trail. The trail itself is in good shape and is well maintained. Wildflowers abound and, depending on the year, berries are available for pickers. About 4 miles in you reach the bottom of the steep switchback section of the trail. From here the trail begins a series of almost continuous switchbacks climbing and climbing. The view behind you into Paradise Valley can be spectacular on this steep but beautiful climb.
South fork deep creek
    As the trail nears the top of the divide bare rock mountains and distant vistas make a visual delight.

     Your reward for climbing the 1,400 ft vertical switchback section comes when you reach the top of the divide and stand and look to the east into the Davis Creek drainage and back to the west towards Paradise Valley. If you have arranged a shuttle you can continue hiking from here down the Davis Creek Trail connecting into the trail system that will lead you to the trailhead near the 63 Ranch. This is the same trail you follow for the Elephant Head hike. However, most hikers consider the Davis Creek divide to be their destination on a South Fork hike and turn around here and retrace their steps back to their car.

     The South Fork Deep Creek Trail is a hike that can be any length that suits you and you will see interesting terrain along the way. If you hike this trail too early in the year you may find large snowbanks persisting as you approach the top of the divide. However, they usually are not a barrier to achieving the divide. South Fork of Deep Creek Trail is not one of the most popular trails in this area but it is common to see other hikers on the trail. I highly recommend this hike for those looking for a good place to get into the woods near Livingston, MT.
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