Casey Meadow, in the Elkhorn Mountains, is a great early season backpacking destination. It’s close to Helena, the three-mile hike to the meadow isn’t too strenuous, and it’s one of the few high places that is free of snow in June. Last year we headed up in early June, camped in the meadow, and climbed Casey Peak the next day. The Casey Peak trailhead is at 5100 feet, and the meadow is about 6400 feet. Thirteen hundred feet in elevation spread over three miles is totally comfortable for me when I’m carrying a 30 lb. pack, so this hike is a great for getting backpacking muscles back in shape. The trail follows a creek to the meadow, so there’s no need to carry tons of water, either. Lots of raspberries along the trail, too, so it’s a nice destination at the end of the summer as well.
Casey Peak is another 3 miles and 2000 feet above the meadow at 8491 feet. It’s a pretty steep trail, even with more than a dozen switchbacks, so I was glad to do it as a day hike and not be lugging my heavy pack. But you certainly could camp near the top of the peak, if you don’t mind hauling water up – and if no lightning is in the forecast!
The sunsets were the highlight of the trip, but we found a great campsite in the meadow, and the hike up Casey was absolutely rewarding.