CDT: Chief Joseph Pass to Schultz Saddle (MT Sec. 13)
ElevationAscent: 2,309' 704 m
Descent: -1,659' -506 m
High: 7,924' 2,415 m
Low: 6,801' 2,073 m
GradeAvg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 15% (8°)
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“A fun ridge-top section of the Continental Divide Trail.”— Lance Pysher
While some endurance riders do this stretch as an out and back, it is more frequently done in segments such as between Chief Joseph and Gibbons Pass or as a loop with Elk Creek Trail #018.
Park in the parking lot for Chief Joseph Cross Country Ski Area and look for the CDT badges. The trailhead is west of the outhouse towards the end of the main parking area. The trail starts out as doubletrack before quickly transitioning to singletrack. Just past the Gordon Reese Warming Hut the at 0.7 miles there will be a quarter mile of road before returning to trail. About 1.5 miles in, you'll hit the high point on the segment between Chief Joseph and Gibbons Pass.
Enjoy the mostly downhill stretch for the the next 5.5 miles to Gibbons Pass. Keep an eye for the CDT badges along the way. At a few spots the trail crosses decommissioned roads and the way froward can be a little confusing. At 5.0 miles take note of the junction with the Nee Mee Poo trail along with the no bikes symbol and shed a tear. I have been told that it would make a great bike trail and no else uses it; no hikers or equestrians are ever on it. What a shame.
At 7.0 miles, you'll arrive at an intersection with Gibbons Pass, and time to make a decision - head back or keep on pedaling. Just be aware that the next 7.0 miles are probably the best part of the whole ride even if there is more climbing than descending. Other than one grunt through an old burn between miles 8 and 9 the climbs seem pleasant.
The descent at 10 miles is relatively steep. Between 12.5 and 14 miles enjoy the expanse of unburned forest. At around mile 14, in comes the junction with Hogan Creek Trail #105. Most people turn off here and add in some fun miles down Elk Creek Trail #018.
If you decide to continue on, congratulations, you have 4 more miles to Schultz Saddle. From here, the trail continues in the same vein following the ridge with a mixture of forest, old burns and meadows. For the last mile the trail can be a challenge to find as it crosses an old burn and interests a road a couple of times. If you miss the trail crossing the road don't worry. You can continue up the road to the saddle.
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Family Friendly, ADA Accessible, Need to Know, Dogs Allowed, Features, Electic Mountain Bikes Allowed
Local Club: Bitterroot Backcountry Cyclists
Land Manager: USFS - Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest Office