A Wild Alpine Photography and Backpacking Excursion with Tom Turcich Trip Preview

Trip Summary

Trip Highlights: 
- Backpack and camp 3 nights in the backcountry up Sheafman Canyon in the Bitterroot Mountains.
- Stay 2 nights at "The Camp at Gash Creek" or "The Bitterroot Guest House" with full amenities.
- Alpine Lake Packrafting on some of the most beautiful lakes you'll ever see in your life.
- Photography and Backpacking Instruction by Tom Turcich and Luke Hayduk.
- Astrophotography under some of the darkest nighttime skies in the US.
- Tintype Photography with Northland Studio
Trip Activity Level:
Moderate/Challenging 4/5
- Guiding Services
- Gear Rental
- All Backpacking and Camping Reservations
- Accommodations at the Little Smith Creek Ranch
- Transportation to and from Missoula Intl. Airport
- Photography Instruction
Group Size: 
5 - 8 Other Travelers

Day 1 - July 23rd
Arrival at Little Smith Creek Ranch and Gash Creek Camp

Hiking Optional on this day. Short Trails around the ranch available for free use.

Fly or drive to the Little Smith Creek Ranch in Victor, MT. Group introductions and trip briefing meeting. Spend the day hiking around the ranch or relaxing in a hammock!

Food and drink provided by Bitterroot Backpacking. Cowboy campfire with popcorn and s'mores to cap the night.

Day 2 - July 24th
Backpack to Gerrard Lake

6 mi, 2000 ft elevation gain

Light breakfast provided by Bitterroot Backpacking. Shuttle from the ranch to the trailhead at 9 am.

Backpack up to Gerrard Lake. Arrive at approx. 2-3 pm.

The hike into Gerrard Lake is an arduous and adventurous effort! The hike follows a trail with a steady uphill grade all the way up, and thankfully has very few steep slope angles.

Acknowledgement of Risk: You will be climbing over many fallen pine trees and through shrubbery at times! We will also encounter creek crossings which require that we get our feet wet!

Set up camp, have dinner, sit by the fire tended by your guide. (Backpacking meals are determined on a person-by-person basis. Scroll down to read more.)

Day 3 - July 25th
Off-Trail Day Hike to Upper Lakes, Sheafman Peak

Mileage Optional, 3 mi, 1000 ft elevation gain


Part of the beauty of this trip is it's PACING! On the 2nd day, we'll leave our tents set up and hang most of our food in trees before heading off to explore the Sheafman Valley.

At sunrise, there will be an optional photography jaunt around the talus (rocks) that surround the lake. We'll capture the lake at various angles around the lake.

During the day, we'll head out for a hike to the higher lakes in the Sheafman Valley. (Knaack Lake, Aichele Lake)

For those interested in more of a challenge, there will also be an optional hike to the summit of West Sheafman Peak, a peak that towers approx. 1500 ft above Gerrard Lake.

Acknowledgement of Risk: Off-trail hiking can be difficult with uneven and steep terrain. We will climb over more fallen trees and cross creeks on this day. Scrambling to the summit of West Sheafman Peak involves class 2 and 3 climbing, which means using hands and arms to climb, and may mean high consequence falls for very short periods of time.

Return to camp by 6 pm and relax for the rest of the day. Float and camp at the lake of your choice. Eat a hearty backpacking dinner. Have a warm campfire. Be Merry!

Day 4 - July 26th
Backpack to Fred Burr Reservoir

3.5 mi w 2000 ft of elevation loss

Wake up around 8 - 9 am, have a full, healthy breakfast, then pack up and leave camp by 11 am. We'll have a tough day ahead of mostly off-trail hiking!

We'll start by hiking off-trail to the Sheafman-Fred Burr "saddle" and then heading down the valley towards Fred Burr Creek.

Acknowledgement of Risk: Hiking to the saddle and down from the saddle will involve off-trail travel and will include uneven terrain, creeks to cross, logs to hurdle, and potentially unstable rocks for footing. Patience and slow pacing are key.

Once we reach Fred Burr Reservoir around 3 pm, we'll set up camp and our tents to settle in for one more night in the backcountry.

Day 5 - July 27th
The Hike to Fred Burr Trailhead

4.5 mi 1000 ft of elevation loss

Optional sunrise hike up the southern talus slope of Fred Burr Res for higher perspectives of the lake.

Wake up around 9 am, have breakfast, pack up camp and the tents, and hike down the Fred Burr Trail to the Fred Burr Trailhead.

Return to the luxurious facilities of the Camp at Gash Creek and the Little Smith Creek Ranch to wash up and prepare for a huge post-hike meal provided by The Wild Mare and by Bitterroot Backpacking

Day 6 - July 28th
Thank You Breakfast and Outro

Spend our last morning at the Little Smith Creek Ranch and Gash Creek Camp. Meet for breakfast at the world-famous Paul's Pancake Parlor in Missoula.

Join Luke and Tom for a fun, easy tube float on the Bitterroot River in the afternoon. This activity is not operated, guided, or hosted by Bitterroot Backpacking or Tom Turcich.

Photos From Past Trips

Our view on Day 2, after a short off-trail journey up above Gerrard Lake.

Campsites are always cozy! There will be a fire for everyone to gather round each night!

Off-Trail hiking is tough, yet oh so rewarding! We may encounter snowy conditions on this trip, but the presence of snow is unlikely.

The weather is not always perfect due to the unpredictable nature of weather in the mountains. A forecast of partly cloudy skies could mean anywhere from nearly clear skies to rain/thunderstorms. Despite the weather, we do our best to prepare and keep comfortable!

Beautiful wildflowers dot the landscape on the way to the lake and further!

Alpacka Rafts built the very first modern packrafts in the early 2000s. We carry the Alpacka Scout, a 3.5 lb raft with e designed purpose of floating on alpine lakes.

Spend time with Savannah, the first pup to walk around the world!

Photo Creds to Tom Turcich

Katja flew all the way from the UK for this trip! She loved the ultralight gear options.

Cooking over a fire! We will make tea, bread, and potatoes over the open fire! Many more delicious meal options available too.

Photo Creds to Tom Turcich

Pika will be commonly seen on this adventure! Don't miss these cute little pipsqueaks!

There are some amazing high elevation lakes on this hike that may still be frozen when we get up there!

Learn how to hang a bear bag and more importantly, how to backpack in bear country without leaving a trace!


How much hiking will we do each day?

5 - 7 mi / day with about 1000 - 2000 ft of elevation gain and loss.

Do you provide the gear?

Rental gear + cost are included in every trip.

What should I pack?

Check out our packing list here.

Do you provide food or water?

Snacks and Backpacking meals are provided on this trip. Scroll down for more info about meals and snacks.

We also carry Sawyer water filters on every trip. It'll be the freshest, coldest water you've ever had!

Will we see wildlife?

We may see some wildlife, but encounters are not common. With that said, the Bitterroot is home to bears, elk, moose, wolves, mountain lions and pika as well as a plethora of other animals.

Can I bring my dog?

Yes, please bring your dog assuming it loves hiking and can handle the planned hiking mileage!

Are accommodations included?

Accommodation is included on the 23rd and 27th at the Little Smith Creek Ranch and Gash Creek Camp. You can check out our list of recommended accommodations here.

Is transportation included?

Transportation is included by a local transportation service in Missoula. You will coordinate pickup and drop-off times with your guides!

Check out our Ultralight Gear.

Some companies don't provide rental gear in trip pricing, but we do!

Our gear is ULTRALIGHT! Your full pack weight will be under 30 lbs!

We carry
the best backpacking meals.

Plan out and the gobble down meals by brands like Gastrognomeals and Wild Zora.

Digital Topo Maps and Virtual Trip Planning 

Included with this trip:

- Access to digital topographical trail map on Caltopo.com

- Virtual trip planning meeting one month prior to trip on Google Meet.

- Request a topo map of this hike by sending us an email! Topo maps are automatically sent after booking.


$2750 / person
6 Days Backpacking + Camping in the Bitterroot Mountains with Tom Turcich and Bitterroot Backpacking

50% down at time of booking, remaining 50% down 60 days from the start of the tour


"Being from The Netherlands, Europe, I had to plan a bit further ahead than average. Luke was easy going and had everything set out for me using clear lists of stuff to bring, and where I forgot a thing or 2, he always had an alternative at the ready."

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"Luke was very personable & knowledgeable. He provided thoughtful snacks & a yummy meals. He would give scientific names to the landscapes/ mountains, show the markings on the mountains from glaciers. The FLOATING was amazing, being on a beautiful body of water & surrounded by extreme beauty was amazing. I will definitely hike with Luke again!"

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"I had such an amazing trip with Bitterroot backpacking and would recommend it to anyone! The scenery was gorgeous and truly a hidden paradise. The gear, food, and vibes were all top notch and I learned so much from Luke."

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"If you are looking for an adventure with sights you will never forget then choose Bitterroot Backpacking. Luke is an excellent guide that has all the necessary knowledge and gear you will need. Luke will take you off the beaten path and show you places that are away from the tourist attractions."

Read More on TripAdvisor


Additional Info

Cancellation Policy

A refundable deposit of 50% of the full amount of the trip is required to secure your spot on this trip. 50% down at time of booking, and the remaining 50% down 60 days from the start of the tour.

If you decide to cancel your trip, the trip is 100% refundable until 59 days before departure. After this, the booking becomes non-refundable.


The weather can be incredibly difficult to predict for a mountainous environment like the one we’ll be visiting on this trip. We’ll plan for temperatures in the 60s - 80s during the day and 30s - 40s at night. This hike will be hosted rain or shine, but in the event of a thunderstorm, we will take shelter using the precautions outlined by Wilderness First Responder training the guide has received. In the very rare case of dangerous thunderstorms for multiple days, trips can be rebooked or a partial refund of up to 50% can be given.


Condition Restraints

This tour is, in part, in remote areas. This adds to the adventure and opportunity to enjoy a true nature experience. However, due to the nature of the terrain, weather, road conditions, and other elements beyond our control, some elements of tours may have to be altered. Times of some activities may need to be changed or even cancelled due to the conditions. If an activity is cancelled it will be replaced with an alternative activity that is more appropriate for the conditions. Advance notice will be given for any changes where possible, although at times changes may be made whilst the tour is in progress.

Wildlife Encounters

On every trip, we love to see wildlife, but it is impossible to guarantee an encounter or sighting. With that said, wildlife is common in the Bitterroot National Forest and it is likely we will see or encounter something. A note on Grizzlies: Grizzly bears are very uncommon in the Bitterroot. The Bitterroot was once their habitat, but settlers and homesteaders drove them out of this area.

Terms and Conditions

Acceptance of Risk and Responsibility

Nature and adventure travel is by character, an activity that requires traveling in areas that are often remote and the terrain difficult. Whilst every precaution is taken to ensure the comfort and safety of guests, these trips inherently have have elements of risk. By taking part in this tour you acknowledge that there are inherent risks and that you are fully aware of the conditions of travel, accommodation and activities offered. You accept that Bitterroot Backpacking, its staff and sub-contractors cannot be held liable for any accident, illness or similar occurrence. You hereby accept all such risk and release the company from all claims and causes of action arising from any injuries or damages resulting from these inherent risks.

Authority on Trail

At all times, Bitterroot Backpacking's guide or its representative will be final authority on all matters likely to endanger the safety, well-being and enjoyment of the tour. Clients must at all times strictly comply with the laws, customs, foreign exchange and drug regulations of all countries visited. Should the client fail to comply with the above or commit any illegal act when on tour or, if in the company’s opinion, the client's behavior causes or is likely to cause danger, distress or annoyance to others we may terminate that client’s tour without any liability on the company’s part.

Apply for this trip here:

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