The Morrell Falls Trail in the Lolo National Forest is a great option for a scenic, relatively easy half-day hike near Missoula. While other trails in the area gain over one thousand feet in elevation, this one gains only a few hundred. It's far from dull, though—in addition to a steep section and tree roots to scramble over, the scenery is breathtaking. Wildlife that live in these forests include grizzly and black bears, beavers, elk, moose, deer, bobcats, and mountain lions.
While a forest fire damaged trees along sections of this trail in late 2017, you'll still see plenty of greenery. Hardy singed pines still grow fresh new needles at their tops and other sections of forest remain untouched. Trees that grow here include Engelmann spruce, larch, lodgepole pine, and three species of firs: subalpine, grand, and Douglas. One mile into your hike on this 2.7-mile out-and-back trail, you'll
reach scenic Morrell Lake, which in the warmer seasons is surrounded by
light green grasses and a wide range of these deep green conifers. In the fall, the lake reflects the contrasting tones of the evergreens and changing colors of deciduous trees.
New growth is starting to appear, including delightful morel mushrooms, and wildflowers still bloom all over. Vivid purple and pink fairy slipper orchids and coralroot dance among golden glacier lilies and fluffy white beargrass flowers. Many of these flowers grow on and around the rocks that frame the cascade of Morrell Falls, making the sight that much more majestic. At times, the roar of this ninety-foot double waterfall is thunderous.
Note that the accessibility of this trail not only makes it a good option for dogs and humans with a variety of energy and stamina levels, but also makes it quite popular. Plan to encounter many other hikers of both the human and canine varieties as you ascend to Morrell Falls. Not even the biggest crowds or the aftermath of forest fires can take away from the magic of this special place, though. You'll go home from this hike inspired by the power, beauty, and resilience of nature.