Silver Star Mountain
Bald Mountain and Muddy Fork
Heather Canyon, Elk Meadows and Gnarl Ridge
Bull of the Woods
July is my favorite month of the year. At long last, the mountains are snow-free and it’s high time to go high up in the mountains. You won’t find any lowland hikes here - every single hike featured in this section (save for one very notable exception) starts in the mountains and climbs even higher in the mountains. Here you’ll find everything you dreamed about all winter and spring: expansive views, fields of wildflowers and mile after mile of trail that invites backpacking. And best of all - the weather is finally, after many months of rain and cold, just right.
Planning the perfect July hike isn’t always easy. The longer drives to the mountains and warm, even hot days necessitate getting up earlier than some hikers would prefer. This isn’t a problem for me as a morning person but for some people this can be a chore. With hot weather in the forecast, it is important to hit the trail before the heat of the day. In spite of the heat of summer, snowdrifts can still block trails earlier in the month. I’ve hit snow on
almost all of these hikes in July ; for example, I remember that we hit large snowdrifts on my first visit to McNeil Point, which took place in late July 2012. This is always a possibility, especially after heavy snow years, and you should be prepared to turn around if you lose a trail under continuous snow. It seems hard to believe that this would be possible, but it is.
Speaking of preparation, you should always be prepared for inclement weather even in the middle of summer. While summer snowstorms are extremely rare, summer thunderstorms are not. You do not want to be high on a ridge top when the clouds roll in, as you are very much at risk of being struck by lightning. If you’re out in the mountains and hear thunder, or see black clouds rolling in, get under tree cover and away from water and ride out the storm as best you can. After the clouds have parted, you may also want to keep an eye out for any fires the lightning may have caused.
Last but not least, July is also the height of alpine wildflower season. Almost all of these hikes feature excellent blooms throughout July. You should bring a wildflower identification guide and a camera (or your phone) for help identifying the many flowers found all over our region in July.