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Bear Creek Falls



4.2 mile 6.7 kilometer out and back
89% Runnable


Ascent: 675' 206 m
Descent: -675' -206 m
High: 4,772' 1,455 m
Low: 4,132' 1,260 m


Avg Grade: 6% (4°)
Max Grade: 17% (10°)


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Trail shared by Shannon D.


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This creek side run gently climbs between granite mountain peaks to Bear Creek Falls.

Shannon D.

Features Fall Colors · River/Creek · Spring · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

The trail does not technically close. However, it may be quite challenging once the snow falls in late fall and until the spring melt commences (typically in April). The narrowing canyon tends to shade this trail, so icy spots are still possible even into late spring.


With just a short drive from Missoula or Hamilton, you'll find yourself with multiple options that allow you to escape into the Bitterroot Mountains. The Bear Creek Trail #5 is a moderately traveled, relatively easy outing for all ages along it's namesake creek which ultimately leads you to Bear Creek Falls. Along the way, you'll encounter large natural rock fields, a thickening coniferous forest, and a mountain riparian habitat along with the possibility to sight various animals or birds along the way. Once at Bear Creek Falls, visitors can either relax and enjoy the cold snow melt as it cascades over granite boulders or continue on along Bear Creek Trail #5 and into the Sellway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

Runner Notes

Very rocky areas can make portions of this trail difficult for trail runners.


A trip on the Bear Creek Trail will not disappoint. This creekside trail gently climbs between granite mountain peaks to Bear Creek Falls. This is an excellent place to relax and enjoy a picnic. The trail is very narrow at times and rocks or tree roots can present tripping hazards. There are also a few large downed trees that visitors will need to maneuver around, as well as runoff streams that flow across the trail.

While the trail is most heavily used to the falls if you are looking for a longer adventure, continue along the trail to the Middle Fork Trail leading to Bryan Lake or the North Fork Trail on the way to Bear Lake.

Flora & Fauna

While traveling on this trail you will see an abundance of native coniferous pine trees, deciduous hardwoods and, depending upon time of year, native wildflowers in bloom or green shrubbery. Deer and elk sightings are fairly common near the trailhead, but typically not so much once the trail folds into the narrowing canyon. This is where mountain goat sightings may be possible, especially along the cliff face north of the trail. Small critters and raptor sightings (bald eagle or osprey) are common while navigating to the waterfall. And yes, the trail's namesake does do it justice as bear encounters are possible all along the trail. So don't forget to bring bear spray and make noise as you go.


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Bear Creek Falls.
May 17, 2016 near Hamilton, MT
Rock quarry on the Bear Creek Trail.
May 17, 2016 near Hamilton, MT
View of Bear Creek from the trail.
May 17, 2016 near Hamilton, MT