Friday, June 15, 2007

New World Gulch

Driving Directions: Take I-90 east to the Bear Canyon exit. Go right off the exit and at 0.2 miles, go left on Bear Canyon Road. Follow road 3.4 miles to obvious trailhead.

Though another Mt. Ellis ski season has come and gone, New World Gulch (NWG) remains a worthwhile outing, especially if you’re up for a bit of a mud wallow. Don’t be dainty—just pretend you’re hiking in the Cascades.

That said it’s actually my favorite time of year for a hike up NWG, with lush vegetation lining the red-dirt trail, frequent side streams contributing to the rush of the picturesque trailside creek, and only the intrepid venturing past the first couple stream crossings.

From the trailhead, immediately pass through the wood fence and climb the short hill—don’t continue up the dirt road to the Bear Canyon Trail! The route soon passes an indistinct left turn that would take you to the old Bear Canyon ski area, before rolling gently along the creek. Continue approximately 0.75 miles until the small rise just after the second stream crossing (careful, them thar rocks are slick!). Recommendation: if it's wet, go right—it’s a smaller trail but less muddy; if dry, go left—it’s the standard hiking route.

On the left fork, climb just a bit more steeply along the raised banks of the creek for another quarter mile before crossing the bouncy, five-log bridge to reach the first meadow and the first mud. From here, the trail climbs steeply through a section known to mountain bikers as “Star Wars,” as hurtling down through the open lodgepole pines recalls stars tracking past while making the jump to hyper-speed. Whatever you call it, it’s steep, gaining 300 feet in the next quarter mile.

Finally at 2.25 miles, you crest dramatically into the obvious meadow (the hills are alive, etc.) and your next decision. One, you can turn around here for a nice afternoon. Two, you can continue straight through the meadow, eventually reaching Mystic Lake at a little over 6 miles. Or three, you can cross the creek on the meadow’s east side, follow the rather indistinct connector trail across the northern base of Mt. Ellis, and drop down the obvious trail that follows Ellis’ northern drainage. This last option makes a recommended, 5.5-mile loop with about 1,500 feet of elevation gain that reconnects with the main NWG trail at the river crossing where you first had the chance to go right.


Let me say again how much I enjoyed writing these articles for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle in 2006-2007, and how much I loved being part of Bozeman's outdoor community! It's a special place with special people, and special trails, of course. Feel free to comment current conditions to this blog and stay in touch—though we're in SoCal for a bit while Kristi gets a PhD, I'd love to hear what's going down in the 5971x (as it were).

And check out the stuff on the right for more info.