Summer Season at Downing Mountain Lodge

At a crossroads of culture and environment, the Bitterroots blend a combination of Pacific Northwest influences with the Rocky Mountain West.

Montana Summer Activities

Bitterroot Hikes

Downing Mountain Hikes

There is great hiking on the ridge directly behind Downing Mountain Lodge. There are subalpine tarns two thousand feet up, a rugged mountain ridgeline hiking tour that culminates at Downing Mountain, and Barley Lake hidden down in the forest below the Crown Point. Closer to the Lodge are two separate and small creeks to hike to within fifteen minutes, both with trails leading to them. With a rocky promontory close by with abundant huckleberries to pick in August and September and open Ponderosa glades to stroll through fields of Spring wildflowers, the views from the Lodge property will have you as breathless as the hiking.

Bitterroot Valley Hikes

  • Blodgett Overlook | One of our favorites short trails is the Blodgett Overlook from Canyon Creek trailhead, a thirty-minute drive from the Lodge. A three-mile round trip hike to a beautiful overlook of Blodgett Canyon, the inspiring view up Blodgett Canyon at the granite towers of Blodgett Canyon will make you want to hike up to or climb them.
  • Canyon Creek | Canyon Creek Trail, accessed from the same trailhead as the Blodgett Overlook, is moderately strenuous and leads to a series of two mountain lakes and is full of wildflowers late in the season.
  • Sawtooth Canyon, Goat Peak, Roaring Lion Canyon, and Ward Mountain | Ward is a thigh-burning, high peak with about 5,000' elevation gain to a lofty rounded summit with amazing high mountain and valley views. Roaring Lion is a deep and moist canyon with a beautiful creek and cedar groves, Goat Peak is a short steep hike to a lower summit, and Sawtooth is a nice foothill walk before ascending to another remote and beautiful mountain canyon on the backside of Downing Mountain.

Check out the Summit Post website or Mike Hoyt's book Bitterroot Mountain Summits for more information on hiking Montana's alps.

The Bitterroot River

With five convenient access points to the Bitterroot River near the Lodge, this cold water fishery continues to provide locals and visitors with great times fishing, tubing, paddling, swimming and picnicking. Angler's Roost, West Side Bridge, Hieronymous Park, Veteran's Memorial Bridge, Blodgett Park, and Woodside Cutoff are all access points to the Bitterroot River within thirty minutes of the Lodge. Westside Bridge, the closest, is the nicest for a stroll along the river, swimming, picnicking, and wade fishing. Angler's Roost to Blodgett Park or Woodside Bridge are the best local sections for floating either by raft, canoe, kayak or inner tube. A moderately swift river with few obstacles in these section other than logs, one rapid, and turns in the river, the river appeals to most people's desires and sense of adventure. As with all moving water, having experience and wearing a PFD are necessary. There are numerous fishing shops in Hamilton and we can help you with choosing a float fishing guide if you desire to raft fish the river. There are Bitterroot River maps available at the Bob Ward's Sporting store in Hamilton or at fishing shops in town as well.

Lake Como

As the most popular National Forest Service destination in the northern region, Lake Como provides great views of the high peaks, a wonderful paddling destination, a swimming beach, hiking trails, a paved walking trail, mountain biking trails, a powerboat launch, jumping cliffs at the far end in high water, and another canyon trail to high mountain lakes into Idaho. Adjacent to Lake Como is Lost Horse Canyon with gravel road access deep into the wilderness to other high mountain lakes and trails into the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness. It is also a popular destination for rock climbing and picnicking on the banks of this large creek. Check with the Bitterroot National Forest office in Hamilton for more information about Lake Como. Some of the day-use areas require a fee that can be paid with cash in a self-service envelope.


In addition to the Bitterroot River near Hamilton, there are many tributaries with good fishing: Blodgett Creek, Lost Horse Creek, Bear Creek, and both the West and East Forks of the Bitterroot. The Selway River in Idaho over Nez Perce Pass is an exceptional Cutthroat Trout fishery with great wade fishing opportunities. Rock Creek, a world-renowned blue-ribbon fishery, is over Skalkaho Pass and has also great wade fishing opportunities. The Salmon River has steelhead runs that attract fishermen from afar. Lake Como and Painted Rocks Reservoir have good lake fishing and there are numerous mountain lakes with good fishing in the summer months. There are numerous fishing stores in town that can help you with fly patterns, equipment, and destinations, and we have guides that we recommend to people wishing to float fish the river.

Mountain Biking

Mountain biking on the loop road at the Lodge is fun for the fit biker with its two thousand foot climb and descent. Mountain biking down from the Lodge and to town is a fun ride for anyone who arranges a shuttle with their party or calls us for a shuttle.

Mountain Bike trails are in abundance in the Lake Como area, at Skalkaho Pass, in Warm Springs Creek, and from Lost Trail Pass. Additional trails up the West Fork of the Bitterroot are good and Fred Burr Canyon hosts a two-track trail to Fred Burr Lake. Nez Perce Pass up the West Fork Road is another great ride for its remote pavement section and access to the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness. Missoula hosts some great trails in the Rattlesnake corridor and there are mountain bike races every year in Missoula.

Road Biking

The West Side road loop is a popular road biking trip into town and has a bike path along Highway 93. There is a bike path north from Hamilton to Lolo for 35 miles of paved riding. Road rides looping along the west side of the Bitterroot River incorporate Westside Road, Ricketts Road, Bowman Road, Cherry Orchard, Lower Mill Road, Sheafman Road, Canyon Road, Blodgett Camp Road, and Red Crow Roads. A good local road map is available at the Chamber of Commerce office. With light traffic, a few hills, and good pavement, this is a perfect place to enjoy a solid road riding workout with amazing mountain and valley views. The Bitterroot Valley is part of the Bike Across America trail and we welcome any through bikers to spend a few days enjoying the mountains.

With two excellent bike shops in Hamilton, Valley Bike and Red Barn Bikes, finding service for your bike, other riding ideas, or parts is easy.

Rock Climbing

The Bitterroot Mountains hold some of the best rock climbing in Montana. From the high granite towers of Blodgett Canyon to the Boulders of Lost Horse, there is something for every climber within half an hour of the Lodge. Starting in the north, Kootenai Canyon has mixed sport and traditional climbing routes on the cliffs just off the trail and a ten minute hike from the trailhead. From 5.8-5.12, this area is one of the more popular and earliest developed climbing areas in Montana.

Mill Creek, further south and much closer to the Lodge, has been developed in the past few years as one of the premier intermediate to advanced sport climbing destinations with a high concentration of good routes 5.8-5.12 with bolts spaced for safety and beginning lead climbers. Additionally, there are the multi-pitch, traditional routes on the No Sweat Arete and Dihedrals East.

In Blodgett Canyon, there is a sport climbing wall at the Parking Lot Wall and numerous high towers up canyon on which to try your traditional climbing skills. Starting in the east is the Prow Buttress, then the Drip Buttress. Further up canyon are the Blackfoot Dome, the Kootenai Buttress, the Nez Perce Spire, the Shoshone Buttress, and the Flathead Buttress. With hundreds of pitches therein, Blodgett Canyon is the pinnacle of climbing in the Bitterroot Valley.

Rock climbing resource books available are the Rock Climber's Guide to Montana and the Climber's Guide to Lost Horse, both available at the local Chapter One Bookstore in downtown Hamilton.

White Water Rafting

There are good stretches of whitewater with rafting outfitters on the Clark Fork River in Alberton Gorge west of Missoula with Montana River Guides, the Salmon River over Lost Trail Pass with Kookaburra Outfitters, and the Lochsa River with Lewis and Clark Adventures over Lolo Pass. You can also rent your own raft with Blackadar Outfitters. These adventures take the better part of a day and can be set up in advance with the outfitting companies.

If you have your own raft or kayak, the Bitterroot Valley is well located to take advantage of some world-class boating opportunities:

  • Clark Fork at Alberton Gorge | Class 3 Big Water
  • West Fork Bitterroot | Class 3 Small Water
  • Lochsa River | Class 3-4+ Medium Water
  • Selway River | Class 3-4+ Medium Water
  • Salmon River | Class 3 Big Water
  • Rock Creek | Class 3 Medium Water
  • Blackfoot River | Class 2-3 Medium Water

Additionally, some of the creeks in the Bitterroot are run by creek boaters: Kootenai Creek (class 5), Bear Creek (class 5), Lost Horse Creek (class 4-5), Rock Creek outlet from Lake Como (class 4).

All of these rivers and creeks can be reached and boated in a day from Downing Mountain Lodge.

Family Activities