Maybe you’ve seen those bumper stickers that read, “Life’s about the journey, not the destination,” but on Spanish Creek you can count on both. After leaving Highway 89 and Gallatin Canyon, the road to the Spanish Creek Trailhead crosses a big chunk of the Flying D Ranch, owned by media magnate Ted Turner and arguably the finest ranch in Montana. Drive slow to take in the view, and drive slower to avoid Ted’s bison—he currently has more on this property than in all of Yellowstone National Park.
Oh—the hike!—I almost forgot. With a big turnaround for the trailers and all that Lee Metcalf Wilderness ahead, this one’s a hit with the horse-folk and hikers, too (no mountain bikers permitted). Follow the relatively easy grades to Pioneer Falls, or take the left fork farther to the quiet and wonderful Mirror Lake; both offer worthy destinations and photo ops.
If you’re looking for... MORE, consider big-time loops like Spanish to Hellroaring Creek or Spanish to Cherry Creek. Both are BIG hikes stretching over 20 miles—they’re doable in a day, but only if you’re fast, light, tough, and moving.
Distance: Various lengths, but Pioneer Falls is about 3.5 miles, one-way
Elevation gain: 750 feet
Seasons: Usually dry May through October, weather permitting
Trail(s) used: #407 and #410
Map of trailhead:
View South Fork of Spanish Creek trail in a larger map