Entering the Ross Creek Cedars one’s senses come alive. Cool breezes carry the smell of cedar woods and the subtle scent of wild ginger. The deer moss and old man’s beard lichens waft and lead our eyes to colorful mushrooms growing on dead trees that give life. We hear the shriek of the Pileated woodpecker as she hunts insects on the columns of 600-1000 year old giants. All this and more to the background music of babbling Ross Creek.
A popular mellow hike in Kootenai Country, the one mile nature trail is a great family adventure for all including our senior citizens and is handicapped accessible. Hikers looking to expand and explore can also take the No. 142 trail which continues up the valley and trail No. 321 which heads up to the South Fork of Ross Creek past a waterfall and accesses Sawtooth Mountain. Professionally guided hikes are also offered by Friends of the Scotchman Peaks and Montana Wilderness Association. Historically, our native bands of Kootenai and Salish tribes utilized the mature forests of this area to gather materials for square nosed canoes and cedar bark lodges. Native peoples also gathered edible and medicinal plants, edible mushrooms, and berries including wild raspberry, huckleberry, and goose berry.
Early settlers, trappers, and Indians also harvested furbearers such as fisher, marten, and ermine for their warmth for winter clothing, decorative enhancement, and trading value. Evidence of early trapping sets and cedar shake camps can still be found. Traditional hunting occurred in these old growth stands of timber for woodland caribou, elk, and deer. The vegetation provided palatable forage and the dense tree canopy protection from the elements.
To access the Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area established in 1959, head west from Libby towards Troy on Highway 2 approximately 11-miles to the turnoff south at the rest area for Highway 56, otherwise known as the Bull River road. Go about 17-miles and look for the signs on the west side of the highway. If coming from Noxon or Heron, Montana, take the Bull River road (56) north from the intersection of Highway 200 approximately 16-miles and then road 398 west about 4-miles to the trailhead. Don’t forget to bring lunch and a camera! Our cedars area can do wonders to help you feel awake, alive, and at peace.