The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (9) is comprised of many trails going through different National Forests. The sections listed here are in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, Wisdom Ranger District.
From Pintler Creek to Surprise Lake, the trail is marked and in generally good shape, except for the segment from Pintler Creek to Elk Park, which is wet at the beginning and steep and rocky as it climbs up towards Elk Park. This segment is in the Anaconda-Pintler Area and offers extremely scenic views of the surrounding high country.
From Surprise Lake to the end of Forest Road 725, the trail is generally in good shape and marked until Forest Road 725. The trail stays on or just below the Divide, which is about tree line in this area offering excellent views of the surrounding Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness, the Big Hole Valley and the Bitterroot Valley. There are three 25 percent grades but is generally pretty flat.
Trail 62 accesses the CDNST in about 0.5 mile. The trail is in excellent condition for the next 6 miles and generally flat and wooded. It is unique because the Divide seems almost flat as it winds through the Lodgepole pine forests. This trail section connects with a four-wheel drive road that it follows to Gibbons pass. Elk Creek 18 and Hogan Creek 9 access this section of the CDNST.
From Gibbons Pass to Chief Joseph Pass, the trail is not fully constructed. It starts as a jeep trail at Gibbons pass but you will want to walk down the Trail Creek Road 106.3 to the junction of the Seven-Mile Cutoff Road 1260 following it to the vicinity of Chief Joseph Pass. It does veer away from the Divide about 1.5 miles east of Chief Joseph Pass and follows a forest road out to the Pass. The terrain is rolling. Expect nice news of the East Fork Bitterroot River drainage along these segments.
The next segment is from the Big Hole Pass to the head of Big Lake Creek. It is currently being constructed. Please call the Wisdom Ranger District for updates.
The trail from the head of Big Lake Creek to Slag-a-Melt Lakes offers extremely scenic views of the West Big Hole mountains and the Big Hole Valley. Following the crest of the mountains along the timberline this sections wanders through spectacular alpine scenery. Only one spot exceeds a 15 percent grade. The Twin Lakes Trail 467 allows access to the area by bushwhacking from the end of the trail to the Divide. The South Fork Big Lake Trail 910 also accesses this section of the CDNST. It begins about one mile below the Twin Lakes Campground and does have one boggy spot and a few steep pitches.
The trail from Slag-a-Melt Lakes to Lena Lakes has not been constructed. Check with the Wisdom Ranger District for updates.
The trail from Forest Road 625 to Rock Island Lakes is partially in place. Check with Wisdom Ranger District for current information.
The segment from Rock Island Lake to Berry Meadows follows existing trails away from the Continental Divide through the Hamby Lake drainage and over to the Berry Meadows. This trail starts where the Rock Island Lake Trail meets the Miner Lake road and follows down (east) the road for about one mile where it crosses Miner Creek and heads south. It has one 20 percent grade and one boggy spot just above the steep section. Scenic views of the West Big Hole can be seen as the trail winds through Lodgepole pine forests and meadows.
From Berry Meadows hike southwest for about one mile to the existing trail. Follow to the junction with Trail 479, the Pioneer Mine Trail, and down to the Pioneer Creek drainage going through stands of Englemann Spruce and across Pioneer Creek and over to the Jahnke Lake Trail 113 which is in good shape in this area. Follow this trail west to Jahnke Lake.
From Jahnke Lake to Goldstone Pass the trail follows below the Divide to Darkhorse Lake. From Darkhorse to Cowbone Lake the trail does receive ATV use. The trail from Cowbone is in place for .5 mile. It leaves Cowbone Lake and climbs through the timber to a beautiful alpine wet meadow. The trail fades here but is easy to follow the meadow up to a small lake that sets just below the crest of the Divide. Look south from here and see the trail winding through a scree slope up to the top of the Divide. From the top follow the ridge slightly southeast to Goldstone pass.
For more information on the trail south of this point contact the Dillon Ranger District.
Length: 28.2 miles.Trail Begins: Forest Road 1063.Trail Ends: Along Continental Divide
Area Map: Interagency Visitor Map: SW Montana .USGS Map1: Elk Creek.USGS Map2: Lost Trail Pass .USGS Map3: Schultz Saddle.Township 1S; Range 18W; Section 30