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In 2012, the Pine Creek Fire (started by the spark of an excavator) burned a 12,000+ acre swath south of Livingston, MT. Today, it’s a scene of dead trees juxtaposed by the beautiful sight of forest rebirth.

The hike has no particular destination, but the creek and foliage make up for it – especially during the Fall. During wildflower season, the pinkish purple Fireweed lining the trail makes for a great sight too. A little after 3 miles in you’ll be greeted by a large boulder that provides some nice views looking back down the canyon with The Hogback in the far distance.

Flora

Shrubs and ground-cover plants like Snowberries and Oregon Grape (Holly-Leaved Barberry) are some of the most prominent plants in the area currently. Rocky Mountain Maple (which is more of a shrub than a "tree") lights up the canyon with orange during the Fall.

As mentioned in the intro, the forest burned to the ground in 2012, so the trees are still young and very small. At the time this guide’s writing (Fall 2017), the Lodgepole Pines were one-and-a-half feet tall or so.

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“Wildfires open up the pinecones of Lodgepole Pines, reseeding the forest.”
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“Easiest to discern in the Fall. A source of food for birds, but poisonous to humans.”
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“Visually-striking during Fall Colors season.”
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“Beautiful flowers in wildflower season. In autumn, the plant is topped with seeds amidst soft cotton-like fibers.”

Getting There

When driving from Livingston, take a left at the junction for Montana State Highway 540 at Carter’s Bridge. There will be a sign pointing to the Carter’s Bridge Fishing Access. From there, keep driving until you hit Deep Creek South Fork Road, which is subtly marked with a small brown Forest Service access sign. At the end of the road is the trailhead: South Fork Deep Creek Trailhead (also signed as "Deep Creek Trailhead").

Other Notes

There is a primitive log footbridge shortly into the hike for crossing South Fork Deep Creek. It’s a little narrow and there’s no railing, so if traveling with someone elderly, it’s something to possibly be aware of – though not much of an obstacle. Could be higher stakes during runoff season?

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