Bear Creek Overlook – The Best View near Missoula

By: Ashley Vitiello | Last Updated on June 12, 2024

Bear Creek Overlook trail is the most beautiful overlook we’ve seen.

It’s truly a one-of-a-kind place that’s a must-see when you’re in the area.

The forest along the trail is incredible and long switchbacks make the elevation gain much more manageable. The road is very accessible for non-4×4 vehicles as well.

The trail is a GREAT option in the Bitterroot Mountains. It has everything you could possibly need – forest, views, and adventure.

Specs

  • All Trails Distance: 4.5 miles (out-and-back)
  • Strava Measured Distance: 4.96
  • Elevation Gain: 1,154 ft.
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Bathroom at Trailhead: No
  • Cell Service: Yes (AT&T)
  • 4×4 Required: No

Getting There

Bear Creek Overlook Trail is located in the Bitterroot Mountains about an hour south of Missoula.

Take US-93 south to the small town of Victor. Then turn right on 5th Avenue, which is the downtown district. Turn left on Pleasant View Drive / Dineen Hill Road and you’ll follow that to Gash Creek Road.

Gash Creek Road is a dirt road that winds up to the trailhead. It’s in great shape, so we don’t think you need 4×4 or AWD. But lower clearance vehicles should drive slower and pay attention for any obstacles.

The trailhead parking area is quite small, so get there early or go on a weekday. Park where you can and start up the dirt path that goes straight uphill.

The Trail

Here’s a play-by-play of the Bear Creek Overlook Trail so you know what to expect on your adventure.

The First Split

There’s a split in the trail within the first 10 yards of the trailhead. GO LEFT.

Cutting switchbacks is bad for a lot of reasons (see Leave No Trace). The trail to the right is a switchback cut. So go left.

Switchbacks

The theme of this hike is switchbacks. Switchbacks, switchbacks, and more switchbacks.

The trail is almost completely switchbacks as you can see on the screenshot below from Onx Maps (by the way, we HIGHLY recommend On-X Backcountry for hiking).

But we LOVE ourselves a good switchback. It makes the elevation feel way more manageable. We felt as if we were flying uphill despite over 1,000 feet of elevation gain on this trail.

The trail winds through beautiful pine forests the whole way up. So there’s no shortage of trees, wildlife, flowers, and adventure.

The Overlook

You’re almost there once the trail starts to level out. The switchbacks end and it’s a straight shot to the overlook.

The trees will start to thin. Then you’ll come around the corner and into full view of the overlook.

And WOW!

The view is AMAZING!

You’re looking straight into the heart of the Bitterroot Mountains and Bear Creek Valley. Straight ahead is Idaho and multiple alpine lakes are tucked into the bowls across the valley.

The overlook itself is on a very steep rock outcropping. There are no railings so please stay back from the edge. You can get an idea of the cliff you’re standing on by looking at the rock wall to your right.

We sat here for a while and enjoyed a snack before snapping a few pictures and heading back downhill.

Pro Tips

  • Because of the steep drop from the overlook, we do not recommend bringing children or dogs on this hike. 
  • Make sure you have all the day hiking essentials.
  • Bring a snack to enjoy at the overlook and lots of water to drink along the way.

Pictures from Bear Creek Overlook Hike

Here are some more pictures from our adventure on Bear Creek Overlook Trail!

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Since 2017, Know Nothing Nomads has cemented itself as the “approachable experts” in everything camping, hiking, climbing, and adventuring in the Great Outdoors.

With over 60 years of experience in the outdoors, we don’t just talk about outdoor gear or recommend a good hiking trail.

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About The Author

Ashley is an adventurous soul who loves all things nature, especially warm sunshine, wildflowers, scenic snacking, and mushrooms. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast who has spent years enjoying time outside doing things like hiking, camping, and rock climbing.
Her goal with Know Nothing Nomads is to make these hobbies easily accessible through knowledgeable content and how-to's based on all the stuff she's learned on her journey. If she isn't writing an article, she's probably in a forest looking at big mountain views and tiny pieces of moss on the side of the trail.

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Hey there!

We are Derek and Ashley of Know Nothing Nomads. Whether it is hiking, camping, or just generally being outside, we love it. We are so happy that you have found our little blog and hope that you stick around a while. Feel free to contact us with any questions or get in touch with us on social media!

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