An Impromptu Visit to Seeley Lake and Morrell Falls

As we prepared to leave the waterfalls of the Columbia Gorge for the densely forested canyons of the Middle Fork Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers in Idaho the forecast for the higher elevations developed into a certainty of snow – over the course of multiple days. We considered staying on the eastern side of Lookout Pass as originally planned but we were uncertain if we’d be able to safely navigate the RV over the slick and steep winding grades in snow to reach Helena, Montana where we’d committed to building with Habitat so we elected to find a spot to hole up on the Montana side. We did still overnight along the gorgeous Lochsa River Canyon however and the three of us enjoyed a brief morning hike along the river as we watched the storm clouds gather and the light flicker on the surface of the rushing water.

After crossing the highest elevations in falling snow we breathed a sigh of relief as we descended into the lowlands of the Missoula Valley and continued east towards Seeley Lake. Once we arrived and plugged into power at the national forest campground we pulled out our books, turned on our heater, and cozied up to watch the freezing rain.

Though we chose the campground at random, the general location was deliberate in that we would be on the eastern edge of the current storm and be passed over by the second snow that was predicted to hit the Bitterroot Range to the west on the subsequent day. As it turned out, our small, quiet campground also offered a nice path along the lake and a short stretch through the forest which Allie and I walked at least twice a day during our stay: once the sun emerged it was quite beautiful.

By midday of our second day the sun was breaking through the clouds and we decided to go for a drive with the truck down a few of the many forest roads that crisscrossed the lower elevations on the eastern side of the Mission Mountains. We didn’t exactly get lost but I missed a turn which added more than an hour of driving to our intended route, though luckily we still had plenty of time for a nice long walk along one of the lesser-traveled dirt roads.

The highlight of our stay in the area however was undoubtedly the hike to Morrell Falls, a 90-foot double waterfall with views of the Swan Mountains. Our 6-mile round trip hike was an easy jaunt with little elevation gain and some very nice vistas along the way. Allie was particularly interested in the squirrels chattering in the trees along the trail and spent much of her time gazing upwards longingly, but us humans enjoyed the mountain views and the cascading falls a bit more.