Lost Water Canyon Rim Hike

posted 1/27/2016

A hike into the Lost Water Canyon Wilderness Study Area – the deepest solitude in the Pryor Mountains.

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Lost Water Canyon. <i>(Photo by Dick Walton)</i> Lost Water Canyon. (Photo by Dick Walton)
This is a great 8 mile (round trip) day hike along the Lost Water Canyon rim to Peregrine Point. There is no trail, but route finding is not difficult – just follow the canyon rim. However the off-trail walking is more strenuous than on 8 miles of good trail. The highest elevation (8,500 feet) is at the trailhead, so the return hike is 1,400 feet uphill.

This hike also makes a nice overnight backpack trip. That allows quiet enjoyment of the evening and morning light, and a night in the wild. There is no water source; you must carry all you will need. The advantage is that most of the water will be carried downhill – not uphill.

Lost Water Canyon is both a Wilderness Study Area and a designated Research Natural Area (RNA). Congress should designate this area as Wilderness and extend the designation west to include Cave Ridge, Commissary Ridge and Crooked Creek Canyon.

Hike Variations:

Camping beyond Peregrine Point. <i>(Photo by Dick Walton)</i> Camping beyond Peregrine Point. (Photo by Dick Walton)
If you want a shorter and easier hike, following the canyon rim part way to Peregrine Point is also rewarding. There can be abundant wildflowers in season.

If you are more ambitions, and are very comfortable with off-trail route finding in rugged and wild country, you can extend the hike SW to the spectacular cliffy area where Lost Water, Cave and Crooked Creek Canyons join. This adds about 5 miles and 1,000 feet to the 8 mile (round trip) and 1,400 feet elevation gain of the hike to Peregrine Point. Be sure to take a topo map and compass.

Getting to the Trailhead:

From Bridger MT follow the Pryor Mountain Road driving directions to Big Ice Cave (mile 34.4) and beyond toward Dry Head Vista. The unmarked trailhead is about 3.6 miles past the short spur to Big Ice Cave, and about 0.8 miles before the jackleg fence barrier near Dry Head Vista.

A helpful landmark is a small and isolated cluster of trees on the left (north) side of Pryor Mountain Road a couple hundred feet past the trailhead. You may need to stop and get out to see the old two-track trail dropping steeply from the road down the hill to the southeast. It is not legal for motor vehicles.

Pryor Mountain Road is seasonally closed until May 22 at the Crooked Creek Road junction (mile 30.3). This is 8 miles before the Lost Water trailhead. This closure might be extended in some heavy snow years.

Lost Water Hike Map s Click to expand map.
The Hike:

0.0 miles: From the unsigned trailhead on Pryor Mountain Road follow the old and abandoned two-track trail down the hill to the southeast. (This track is not legal for motorized use.) This is mostly open grassland with abundant wildflowers in June and into July. The track crosses a small drainage then climbs gently and passes through a few trees. Soon the track descends gently into a second small drainage.

0.4 miles: Cross the second drainage. Look right (southwest) for a rocky limestone outcrop on the skyline just to the left of a thickly forested north facing slope. Leave the two-track trail and head for the limestone outcrop. Climb to the top.

0.6 miles: Top of the limestone outcrop. This is the north end of the limestone cliff rim of Lost Water Canyon. Follow the cliff/rim south with the canyon on your left (east). Although there is no “trail” the rim is your guide. It is 3 ½ miles south along the cliff top to Peregrine Point. (The view of Lost Water Canyon is continuous. Any point you chose could be your endpoint and a lunch stop before returning to your vehicle.)

4.1 miles: Peregrine Point. At this point Lost Water Canyon which has been draining fairly straight south turns sharply toward the southwest. It is a good destination for your hike. Relax and enjoy the wild view in all directions. And/or wander and explore the area. The elevation is 1,400 feet below the trailhead. The heavy timber on the canyon rim has thinned, there is more open grass, and you will notice changes in the species of wildflowers blooming.

Lost Water Canyon from Peregrine Point looking north. <i>(Photo by Dick Walton)</i> Lost Water Canyon from Peregrine Point looking north. (Photo by Dick Walton)
Junction of Lost Water and Crooked Creek Canyons. <i>(Photo by Dick Walton)</i> Junction of Lost Water and Crooked Creek Canyons. (Photo by Dick Walton)

South Lost Water Canyon Map s Click to expand map.

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