Jewel Basin Loop
ElevationAscent: 1,984' 605 m
Descent: -1,988' -606 m
High: 7,472' 2,277 m
Low: 5,751' 1,753 m
GradeAvg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 41% (22°)
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“A splendid romp through some of Montana's finest scenery.”— Jason Doedderlein
This is grizzly country. I did not see any nor, surprisingly, did I even see any scat. However, there were plenty of berries, so I imagine they are around. Just be aware, make noise, etc.—you know the routine.
During the summer it can get busy ,and the trailhead will fill up. Get an early start and beat the crowds and heat.
Fall is the perfect time to go. Changing colors, cool weather, minimal crowds.
You'll start at the trailhead and follow Trail #717 as it climbs through the woods. This starts off as a doubletrack but becomes singletrack after a mile or two. The trail continues to climb toward the ridgeline. At 3 miles, you'll reach the ridge and the microwave tower building on top.
The trail can get a little tricky here as there isn't clear guidance on where to go and the trail isn't obvious. Follow the ridge to the right (southeast), and you'll see the trail going along the ridgeline. After another half mile, the trail swings around the ridge, to the north/northwest, and begins dropping to Picnic Lakes.
This turn can be hard to see and a group in front of me (and another person I ran into later) continued to go down the ridge past the turn. Enough people have done this that it does appear the trail heads in that direction, continuing along the ridge. Use the Trail Run Project mobile app to track your movements, and you'll be fine. If things start feeling wrong, check your position.
From that tricky turn, the trail drops down to Picnic Lakes, two lakes that are definitely a good place to linger for a moment.
From the lakes, the trail continues to the west briefly, before connecting with Trail #721, heading to the north toward Twin Lakes, tracking just beneath the ridge. Or, if you prefer, you can continue on the original trail back to the parking area, cutting 2.2 miles (and the best 2.2 miles of the trip, in my opinion) off the loop.
At Twin Lakes, the trail will begin climbing gently toward the ridge and turning west to loop around this ridgeline. The views are spectacular and if you have the privilege of running this while the colors are changing (as I did in late September), it is simply stunning.
Once on the other side of the ridge, the trail will continue to turn to the left until you are heading due south.
The trail is easily to follow, and it is a gentle descent back to the parking area.
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Flora & Fauna, History & Background
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