Kids scamper in and out of tree trunks capable of holding entire families on the self-guided, mile-long trail through Ross Creek Cedars, a 100-acre cathedral-like grove of western red cedars towering 175 feet.
Tucked inside the Kootenai national forest south of Troy, Montana the gentle trail winds past Englemann Spruces, grand firs, wood ferns, devil’s club, often tracing the banks of Ross Creek, a lake-fed stream with native cutthroat trout. Area loggers first appreciated the rainforest-like beauty of the 500-year-old grove and worked to establish protection before the U. S. Forest Service assumed management in 1960.
Interpretive signs and benches appear at regular intervals—as well as signs marking cedars noted for their appearance (“Fairy Den”, “Cedar Chimney,” “Wrestlers”, Twins”). “Even when it’s 100 degrees in the valley, it’s always cool in The Cedars,” says Mark Mason, recently retired recreation manager for the Kootenia National Forest. “You’ve got giant cedar and crystal clear water, and it’s used year-round. The Forest Service maintains the road in winter for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. It’s just a beautiful spot.”
This post is a longer version of a piece I published in the Sept/Oct issue of Via magazine.