Little Saint Joe (9,003’) is considered by some to be nothing more than a highpoint on the way to Saint Joseph Peak. But when you consider that the connecting ridge between Little Saint Joe and Saint Joseph peaks only gains 1,178’ of elevation over 2.3 miles, while the route from the trailhead to Little Saint Joe gains 3,062’ over 2.8 miles, it’s obvious this “highpoint” deserves recognition as a peak.
The most-used route up Little Saint Joe is not a well-engineered trail but closely follows a ridge crest from the trailhead (at the Bass Creek Overlook) toward the summit. Although the route deserves only a Class 2 rating, because of its steepness, many are unwilling (or unable) to complete the trip. With an elevation gain of 3,026’ over just 2.8 miles, this trail can test of a person’s intestinal fortitude.
The trail to the upper slopes of Little Saint Joe receives little maintenance and is often in a poor state of repair. But because it is used by many of the Bitterroot Valley’s hardier outdoor types, the track, partially marked with cairns, is quite easy to follow.—Michael Hoyt