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Welcome to the wilderness in the mountains of Montana
By Tom Adkinson
July 16, 2021

montana rock creek
Rock Creek; image by Tom Adkinson

MISSOULA, Montana – There is no need to build thrill rides in Montana, not when you can begin a mountain hike with the bouncy, breezy walk on a suspension bridge leading into the Welcome Creek Wilderness. The narrow footbridge is across Rock Creek, a blue-ribbon trout stream that is one of the most famous in a state known for trout water.

Welcome Creek Wilderness is a 28,135-acre gem in the 2 million-acre Lolo National Forest. This wilderness gem, appropriately tucked into the Sapphire Mountains, is full of old growth stands of lodgepole pine and abundant wildlife. While trout fishermen wade Rock Creek, elk and bear hunters navigate the steep slopes of the Welcome Creek Wilderness. Hikers push themselves on 30 miles of trails. The area’s highest point is Welcome Peak at 7,720 feet. As rugged and isolated as it is, the wilderness area is barely an hour east of Missoula.

montana rock creek swinging bridge
Narrow suspension bridge leading into the Welcome Creek Wilderness; image by Tom Adkinson

The ruggedness of the Welcome Creek Wilderness makes a Forest Service advisory sign on the far side of the suspension bridge a point of humor. It reads: “Closed to motor vehicles, motorized equipment, hang gliders and bicycles.”

Trip Planning Resources: WelcomeCreekWilderness and

(Travel writer Tom Adkinson, author of “100 Things To Do in Nashville Before You Die,” is a Marco Polo member of SATW, the Society of American Travel Writers.)

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