Explore the most popular wildlife trails near Irwin with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

hiking
2 days ago

Nice hike along Big Elk Creek. We took our dog and he was able to cool off in the stream along the way. My GPS measured 6.3 miles to the creek crossing and trail split to Siddoway Fork and Neeley Cove. Stream was still moving swiftly so we didn't attempt to cross. The trail also appears to cross the Big Elk Creek at about mile 5+, but there is an optional trail up along the cliffs on the north side of the creek. It is a good trail, although a little rocky. Didn't see any animals, but there are plenty of wild flowers. Still, watch out for thistles!

Great trail to take kids on, but be aware that there are numerous spots where the trail drops more or less to the river below. So keep an eye on the little ones! Take out what you take in and remember hiking courtesies... there's tons of people using this trail, so let's keep it looking as natural as possible.

My favorite hike around here. An easy day hike to the lower lake.

Great wildflowers in early July. Hard end of moderate. Some parts of Trail like walking on marbles. Allow plenty of time. I was forced off the trail by a sheep stampede.

Trail to Lower lake is pretty easy. Lower lake to upper lake more difficult but worth the climb. I’m 58 and first time hike. My sons and I did it and I was exhausted at the end but the hike is so worth it!!! Beautiful mountain scenery and even saw 2 moose.

Great day hike. Not too hard. Recommend starting the hike early in the day.

Beautiful, not hard at all. Fishing was great.

This is a fun backpacking trail with camping at lower and upper and other trails that break off from the lakes. It's a really fun area to explore.

Ran this trail a few days ago. Beautiful. 5a on a Tuesday meant not a soul around. Weather was awesome in early June. Took about 2 hr 25 min to run to upper Palisades and back with no traffic. From the campground it was 14.3 miles and about 1700 ft of elevation. I’ve run this trail on a Friday morning and it was starting to get busy. Saturday’s are really busy. Good luck getting around all the horse and foot traffic on the weekend if you are a runner.

Great hike. Follows a river the entire time that is beautiful. At the time we hiked the creek was pretty full leading to some muddy parts of the trail but it was still very doable. There is not a lot of steep incline on this hike so it's good for a lot of ages. very popular

Fantastic scenery, great hike, and we saw a Moose! I love the campground area near Lower Palisades lake, it was a great place to eat our lunch in the shade.

hiking
1 month ago

Very nice hike...even saw a moose on the other side of the creek. If you only want to do a shorter hike, turn around at the Dry Canyon intersection...about 2.7 Miles in. Otherwise, there are no real destinations before that...just a nice hike in the woods near a pretty stream. There was a little mud, but not all that bad. My 15 year old daughter hiked in canvas sneakers and got sore feet, but otherwise okay. Spots are a little rocky.

hiking
1 month ago

The trail has some muddy parts because of the spring runs offs. Otherwise it is dry. No snow. After about 2.5 miles there is a ford. You do not need fording shoes to cross, but it may not be easy to cross if you have small kids with you.

I continued to Siddoway fork, but got to a creek that I was not able to cross (deep, fast running water about 45 feet wide), so I turned around and got back.

backpacking
2 months ago

This is a fun trail to hike and camp at. There's a pretty river that runs through and great scenery. Watch out for stinging nettles but other than that it's a fantastic trail!

backpacking
2 months ago

This is a beautiful trail with, diverse scenery along the way. Only reason for giving it 4 stars is that its pretty popular and can get congested at times. Also when backpacking, good camp spots and firewood are a little sparse.

backpacking
4 months ago

It's a heavily traveled trail and a great one to start on. We usually hit this one in June each year for an overnight experience and the fishing in the upper lake is usually pretty good! Keep an eye out for moose and deer!

backpacking
4 months ago

Great weekend backpacking destination.

One of my favorites. I often continue on to the falls.

on Big Elk Creek Trail

trail running
7 months ago

Great trail. We made a late season run to the 6.5 mile mark in preparation for next year's Palisades Ultra Trail Series. Creeks were cold and snow was 1-4 inches with lots of animal signs, no actual sightings though. Can't wait until next year!

hiking
9 months ago

Great trail, super pretty, just very muddy.

hiking
10 months ago

Absolutely Beautiful!!!

hiking
10 months ago

Narrow trail, rocky and steep. No water in creek. Definitely a challenging hike. Today smoke from the Montana wildfires made breathing very difficult. I felt like we were at 10,000 feet. Still some wildflowers to enjoy.

We just went to the lower lake. Really fun trail. Gradual incline to the lower lake. Plenty of places to rest. The trail is mostly in the shade and has beautiful views the entire way.

hiking
10 months ago

Nice trail up a neat little canyon. In the second half, watch for mountain goats on the West side of the canyon. At the top of the canyon, you can bushwhack your way up to the top of Mount Baird (ascend and follow the obvious ridge that will be on your right side). You can also crest over the ridge at the top of the trail and head down into Waterfall Canyon or Austin Canyon.

backpacking
10 months ago

First of all, when the description says heavily used, it's not joking around. The first four miles of the trail (to the lower lake) will see a lot of traffic on the weekends in the summer, mostly due to the relative ease of the trail and the views along the way. Beyond the lower lake, the traffic drops off quite a bit.

The first four miles offer views of the creek. Mountain goats can often be seen on the canyon walls. The lower lake isn't anything too spectacular, though there is a nice resting area.

Between the lower and upper lakes, keep an eye out for moose in the marshy areas. At roughly six miles in, the trail splits. If you enjoy water crossings, you can continue on up Palisades creek. Otherwise, you'll cross the bridge and take a few switchbacks to the upper lake.

The trail along the upper lake will have you in the direct sunlight. However, once you reach the far end of the upper lake, there are several great camp sites. The forest service has even installed a vault toilet.

If you've come this far, the additional three miles up waterfall canyon is worth the effort, particularly in the late spring or early summer when the snow runoff produces a second cascading waterfall on the opposite side of the canyon. One can even take the waterfall canyon trail up to the top of the basin, where it connects with Austin canyon (which can take you over toward Big Elk Creek) and the Waterfall Crest trail, which at the crest connects to the Sheep Creek trail and the Lake Canyon trail, the latter taking you back down to the Lower Palisades lake (caution: this trail will likely be overgrown and GPS is strongly recommended).

hiking
10 months ago

A great trail for a hike with younger children. The trail is quite easy for the first four miles or so, with lots of nice views of the creek. There's plenty of shade along the way, and for those so inclined, several good options for campsites within the first three miles. Beyond the three mile mark, look for mountain goats on the steep canyon walls.

At about five miles in, the trial splits, giving the more adventurous hiker several options, including the South Fork and the Siddoway Fork. The latter connects with Austin Canyon and Neeley Cove.

Liked this hike. It follows the stream the whole way and is very scenic. Elevation gain is gradual. You can fish the stream if you want

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