Located in the Big Belt Mountains, this National Scenic Trail is recommended for hikers who want a challenge. Hikers will want to take plenty of water on this hike. There is an elevation gain of approximately 1400 feet in elevation in the first 3 miles to trail junction #348. Then an additional 440 feet before the trail starts its' descent to the scenic overlook.
Stop to enjoy the distant views from the ridge. The ten switchbacks will take you down 1,000 feet to a moist valley of giant Douglas fir trees, between towering limestone cliffs. As you continue down, the valley narrows and there is a short spur trail to a lookout through a narrow crack in the cliffs. The main trail is soon between cliff walls less than ten feet apart and drops steeply. Climb under a low natural bridge and down two ladders to a small ledge. Here cliffs rise hundreds of feet on 3 sides of you and drop several hundred feet in front of you, with a truly spectacular view of a valley of lime stone cliffs and spires.
Hanging Valley formed when the main river cut a lower bed or channel faster than a side stream leaving the side steam 'hanging' high above it. There are different types of vegetation in this moist valley, including lichen, and the cliffs and spires as the valley widens. The views are even better as you return on the same trail.
For a shorter by steeper trip, start this hike from Magpie Gulch. This will be approximately 10 miles round-trip. The trail starts higher up, so you will gain only 330 feet to the junction with Hanging Valley.
Length: 12 miles (round-trip).Trail Begins: Vigilante Campground, Township 12N; Range 1E; Section 30 .Quad(s): Hogback Mountain, Snedaker Basin.Area Map: Helena National Forest Map
.Another route to access the trail is through Magpie Gulch.