“Fully accessible, flat, well-marked, educational trail. Views of Bitterroot River & many mountains.”
— Shannon D.
Birding · River/Creek · Views
Open year round. Gate is closed 10 pm-6 am daily. Pets must be leashed. No horses. No bikes. No drinking water available.
The Maclay Flat Nature Trail is a great place for bird and animal watching or to just take a quiet outing along the Bitterroot River. The sights along this trail range from unobstructed mountain views and picturesque river scenes to a tranquil panoramic perspective raised slightly above Missoula.
There are 12 interpretive signs along the trail which help describe the role that plants, animals and humans have played within the local ecosystem making this trail an ideal outdoor classroom.
During the summer the trail serves as a popular point for beginning or ending your float of the Bitterroot River while in the winter it serves as an excellent place to cross country ski or snowshoe.
Need to Know
A great picnic spot along the Bitterroot River. Fishing is allowed (with proper license). During the summer, this trail provides an excellent point to launch or conclude a float of the Bitterroot River. In the winter, this trail is excellent for cross country skiing, especially if you are a beginner! I particularly enjoy the back-lit sunset views from a bench situated along the Bitterroot River.
To avoid crowds plan your run for early in the morning or mid-afternoon. Otherwise expect a generally flat and even trail.
At Maclay Flat you'll find plenty of parking located within feet of the trailhead, clean vault style toilets, trail-side picnic tables, twelve interpretive signs, and two connected pedestrian loops. These two loop trails are 1.25 and 1.75 miles long and include benches and wide paths. Dogs are welcome but must be leashed at Maclay Flats. There is a boat launch approximately 150 yards down trail where non-motorized, carry-in boats are allowed (rafts, canoes, kayaks, float tubes).
This riparian habitat contains towering Ponderosa pines and large cottonwood trees with open fields of native plants, flowers and grasses spread throughout. A wide variety of native birds and animals frequent this location including white tail deer, muskrat, bald eagles, Osprey, heron and so many more.
Flora & Fauna
The self-guided trail winds through two plant communities - riparian and ponderosa pine. Along the trail, you can see human and natural influences that have shaped the Maclay Flat landscape.
History & Background
Up until the early 1900s, Salish Indians camped on this site harvesting roots from the Bitterroot plant and pitch from Ponderosa pine trees.
Run this trail?
Is something wrong? Let us know. Have photos to share? Help fellow runners know what's here.