3. The Best Way to Experience Mann Gulch

Photo courtesy of USFS

IMPORTANT: See update near bottom of this page.

If you can work out the logistics . . .
The blue line on the photo shows my favorite way to hike Mann Gulch. From Upper Holter Lake, have someone* take you (6-7 miles by motorboat) to the mouth of Mann Gulch (20-30 minutes). Someone will also need to pick you up at the mouth of Meriwether Canyon when you finish the hike 5-8 hours later. The time you send on the hike depends on your fitness level and how much time you want to spend looking at the significant points.

Begin hiking on a trail in the bottom of the gulch toward point 6 (corresponds to the map in Maclean's book). From there the trail will begin to zig zag toward the place where Rumsey and Sallee crossed over. Not far from the trail is the location where Dodge lit his escape fire. Also, go into Rescue Gulch and see where Rumsey and Sallee found a slope of rocks that protected them as the fire moved through. From there walk back over into Mann Gulch and find the trail that goes past the markers positioned where each of the men fell. The trail continues on to the helicopter landing spot at the head of the gulch. Follow the trail over to the ridge that separates Mann Gulch and Meriwether Canyon. The ridge offers great views of the gulch and the surrounding area. Eventually the trail begins to descend into Meriwether Canyon by way of several switch-backs. Once into the canyon the trail goes past a picnic area before reaching the river where you will need to be picked up.

You can get cell phone reception on the ridge. It is best to hike in a group of at least three in case someone is bitten by a rattlesnake, etc. One person can stay with the victim and the other can go get help.

*If you are interested in hiking into Mann Gulch, I can connect you with a guy who will take you there by boat, and then come back and pick you up later. He charges $100. Email me for more information (rbenson@helenaschools.org). If you walk from the mouth of Mann Gulch up through all the crosses, including Hellman's cross in Rescue Gulch, and then back to the mouth of Mann Gulch, it is a 4-mile walk . . . a fairly difficult hike for most people because of the steep slopes.

Update: Due to recent flooding (2011), Meriwether Canyon (photo) is closed. The place where the tour boat used to stop has filled with sediment, so it doesn't stop there anymore. You can park a boat and camp at nearby Coulter Campground and then follow a trail over to Meriwether. From Meriwether, you can hike up and over to Mann Gulch. Here is a photo album of a trip I took in November 2106. I kayaked into Coulter (3.25 miles), then hiked over to Meriwether and up to the Mann Gulch overlook (2-3 miles one-way). The trail continues to the head of the gulch and then takes you to the area where the men died. On this particular hike I went off-trail near the head of the gulch and climbed toward Willow Mountain.

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