The Morrell Falls trail (Lolo National Forest Trail #30) is a moderately difficult and very rewarding trail leading to the impressive cascades of 90 ft Morrell Falls. The trail is located in Lolo National Forest near Seeley Lake and is suitable for rear-driven handcycles. Assistance or the ability to dismount and remount the handcycle is recommended due to a bridge and several other obstacles encountered on the trail. The trail receives moderately heavy use from hikers but bear spray should be carried in this region.
The trail starts from a gravel parking lot and begins a generally northwest track through Lodgepole Pine forest that burned in the Rice Ridge Fire of 2017. Prior to the fire this trail offered ample shade along its entire length, however very few living trees remain which can turn this trail into a scorcher on hot days. After a brief but steep climb the trail remains relatively flat until the 1.0 mile mark where it begins a steep climb of about 400 yards. The first portion of this climb contains numerous large rocks but should be passable by all levels of off-road handcyclists willing to take their time. Shortly after these rocks the trail curves to the left and continues a steady and steep climb with several stretches of moderate off-camber trail. The ability to lean or have a spotter here will save riders from a nasty tumble down the hillside.
As the trail winds to the right the off-camber portion fades away and the rider is left with a straight forward climb to the top of a small hill. From here the trail winds up and down several small hills until about the 1.8 mile mark where a small un-named pond appears to the right. The trail in this area also includes a small stream crossing that appears to be missing some boards. While the stream is small it has steep sides along both edges that may present a challenge to a solo rider.
After this pond the trail encounters picturesque Morrell Lake. Some of the trees near the lake survived the fire and several community trails branch off to the lake for better views.
Just after leaving Morrell Lake the trail crosses Morrell Creek over a wooden bridge. On the out-bound ride, this bridge contains about a 15 inch step up to the bridge deck. As a rider drops off the far side of the bridge you can hear Morrell Falls through the trees. From the bridge it is another 0.25 miles until reaching the base of the falls. Morrell Falls plunges 90 feet over a rock ledge and the mist created by the water creates a pleasant spot to relax on even the hottest days. The stream at the base of the falls is shallow which makes it possible for a handcycle to ride across the creek or out to the gravel bar in the center.
The return ride is a bit easier, as the step up to the opposite side of the bridge is shorter, and the off-camber climb section becomes an off-camber downhill section.
Trail Name: Morrell Falls Trail
Location: Seeley Lake, Montana |
Type: Wide trail (≥ 30″), Recreation path, Start and end at the same point (Out-and-Back)
Rating: Adaptive Level 5
Steepest Section: Moderate – between 10-30º
Most Off-Camber Section: Moderate – between 10-30º
Terrain: Mostly hardpack, minimal loose sections
Obstacles: Root exposure, Deep ruts and erosion, Baby heads and/or rock gardens, Drops, ledges, jumps, Bridge
Help Needed? Nope
Even more info: Morrell Falls National Recreation Trail #30
Directions to Trailhead
From the town of Seeley Lake, travel 0.5 mile north on Highway 83. Turn east (right) on Morrell Creek Road (small green street sign) which becomes Forest Service Road #477/Cottonwood Lakes Road, and travel 1.1 miles. Turn north (left) on West Morrell Road #4353 and travel about 6 miles. Turn east (right) on Pyramid Pass Road #4381, go 0.25 mile. Then turn north (left) on Morrell Falls Road #4364. Continue for 1 mile to the Morrell Falls Trailhead and parking area.
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