Directions to Casey Peak Trailhead: From Montana City, travel east on 518 – to McClellan Creek Road. Turn South onto McClellan Creek Road. Continue on McClellan Creek, taking a left at the first Y and a right at the intersection of McClellan and Crystal Creek Road. Continue to the trailhead. The sign post for the trail head is there but the sign is missing so be sure to have a map or GPS. When you get near the end of the road you cross the bridge a little before the old trail head. There is a good place to turn around here and go back to the trail head which is just across the bridge. There is a wide spot in the road and a place to park for a few cars. The trail begins just before the bridge and if you look close you will see the sign post and no sign.
Travel Time to Trailhead: Depending upon how and what you drive and how hard you are on what you drive it can take about 30 to 45 minutes from Montana City to the trail head.
Hike Distance: 10 miles round trip
What to bring:
- Hiking boots
- Lunch and some snacks
- Bear Spray
I have to go all the way back to the summer of 1987 for the last time I clipped the top of Casey Peak. It was a time when I had a trail maintenance contract with the US Forest Service to clear all the trails in the Elkhorn Mountains. That is far too long ago so I figured this would be a good time to make a trek to the top. Because of the timeline I have not seen this particular area since before the Warm Springs fire in 1988. There is a lot to be said about the condition of the forest but I’ll save that for later. There are a couple of access points and different routes that will get you there but I chose to go through the Casey Meadows with my wife and daughter.
First thing out of the truck we caught this handsome puppy dog on the trail with a nice group of riders. Something about outdoor recreation, everyone you meet is happy because you’re out having a good time with good people. We chatted about the abandonment of some trails up there, wished each other good luck on the rest of the journey and continued down the trail.
There is a lot of forest that since the fire has not done well to provide big game habitat. Now that most the fire kill has fallen and the new growth is thick as dog hair it is not a healthy forest. It is disappointing to see so little forest management as a sign of the times but enough of that and on up the trail.
The next stretch of trail lead us to some creek crossings where one had a foot log bridge, a couple just had some small logs to take a chance on and one that was too deep for the hiking boots. This crossing was a welcome cool for hot feet. We laced back up, no one fell in, and continued up the trail into Casey Meadows. This could be a good place for a fall hike during the rut and watch some elk action.
The route through Casey Meadows gives 3,500 feet of elevation from the trailhead to the peak. It is about a five-mile hike one way but near half the elevation gain is in the last mile and a half. It turns out to be a pretty good hike but not anything that would make you turn around before you get there.
The fire lookout is still there and there are parts and pieces of it spread out all over the mountain. Just the same, it is pretty cool to see and the view from the peak is outstanding. Not only can you see the entire Helena valley but you can also so see the Causeway, the regulating reservoir and a piece of Canyon Ferry Lake. There is a good piece of the Elkhorns to view to include the North Fork of Beaver Creek.
On the way out we kicked the last of the snow drifts for this year. And now for the good part of it being an uphill hike all the way in. Downhill to the truck.
Nice hike, great day! Life is Good!!!