The Autumn Palette Trip Preview
Trip Activities: Backpacking, Hiking, Sleeping under the stars, Eating tons of tasty backpacking food
Trip Activity Level: Moderate/Challenging 4/5
Inclusions: Guiding Services, Gear Rental, Camping for two nights at the Little Smith Creek Ranch and Hiking Snacks
Group Size: 5 - 9 people
Day 1 - June 23rd (Optional)
Arrival, Camp at Little Smith Creek Ranch
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 smores to cap the night.
Day 2 - June 24th
Backpack to Little Rock Creek Lake
4.5 mi, 2200 ft elevation gain
Light breakfast provided by Bitterroot Backpacking. Shuttle from the ranch to the Little Rock Creek Trailhead at 9 am.
Backpack up to Little Rock Creek Lake. Arrive at approx. 3 pm.
Set up camp, have dinner, sit by the fire tended by your guide.
Day 3 - June 25th
Off-Trail Backpack to Upper Lakes
3 mi, 1000 ft elevation gain
Pack up and leave camp by 10 am for a challenging, yet scenic off-trail hike to the upper lakes. WARNING: Off-trail hiking can be difficult with uneven and steep terrain. We will be literally ‘bushwhacking’ for short periods of time.
Set up camp by 2 pm and relax for the rest of the day. Float and camp at the lake of your choice. Eat delish backpacking food. Have a warm campfire.
Day 4 - June 26th
Day of Relaxation at Upper Lakes
Spend the day packrafting, lounging by the lake, hiking around the lakes with your guide, eating yummy food, and appreciating the scenery around camp.
Day 5 - June 27th
The Hike Back to the Trailhead
7.5 mi 3000 ft of elevation loss and 700 ft of elevation gain
Hike back down the way we camp to Little Rock Creek Lake. Take final floats, coffee break, tea break, snack break, and then head down the final 4.5 mi stretch to the trailhead. Don’t forget about the 700 ft of elevation gain at the very end!
Return to the luxurious facilities of 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 - June 28th (Optional)
Thank You Breakfast and Outros
Meet for breakfast at the world-famous Paul's Pancake Parlor in Missoula.
Photos From Past Trips
Our view on Day 2, after the 3 mi off-trail journey. The unnamed upper lakes are a true sight to behold.
Our cozy campsite by Little Rock Creek Lake. Tent sites are generally spread out from each other, but it depends on the location. We usually have about 50 - 300 ft between tents but can bunch them closer together if needed.
Packrafting on a quiet and still mountain lake at dawn is one of the most beautiful things you will ever experience.
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!
Another shot of our little campsite with beautiful morning light! There are multiple campsite locations around the lake, all of which are first come first serve.
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.
Take in the full range of colorful alpine flowers! This trail features Scarlet (Indian) Paintbrush, Silver Lupine, Arnica, Penstemon (pictured), Various blooming trees and berries, and plenty of moss and lichen too!
Katja flew all the way from the UK for this trip! She loved the ultralight gear options and every beautiful sight the Little Rock Creek canyon had to offer.
Your guide, Luke, (on the right) with a client in Autumn 2022. You can see the needles on the Larch trees turning yellow behind us. They're one of the only Pine trees to do so!
At the end of June, there's still plenty of water streaming down the mountainside from the snowmelt, bringing tons of plants and wildflowers to life. The water is fresh, cold, and crisp!
How much hiking will we do each day?
5 - 7 mi / day! With one day of 0 hiking!
Do you provide the gear?
Rental gear + cost are included in every trip.
What should I pack?
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 milage!
Are accommodations included?
Accommodation is included on the 23rd and 27th at the Little Smith Creek Ranch. You can check out our list of recommended accommodations here.
Is transportation included?
Transportation in a trail-modified 4Runner is available as an add-on during the booking process!
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!
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.
4 Days Backpacking
50% down at time of booking, remaining 50% down 60 days from the start of the tour
"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!"
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 50s - 70s 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.
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.
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.