“A tough ridge-top singletrack and burly descent make for a sublime backcountry ride.”
— David Lingle
Expect deadfall. Locals try to keep this ride clear of downed trees, but those trees keep on falling.
Challenging all riders, this heavily wooded, high-elevation route starts near the top of Lost Trail Ski Area. Most of the ride follows the Divide National Recreational Trail (which is not the CDT) along the border of Montana and Idaho. It is a classic high country singletrack offering large vistas of both Idaho's Beaverhead and Lemhi ranges and Montana's Bitterroot range stretching far to the north.
Then the bottom drops out for 3000' of demanding descent through the wilds of Twin Creek. This descent throws a lot at you and is relentless in its diversity. The Divide to Twin Creek ride packs a ton adventure into its relatively short mileage.
Need to Know
For a shuttle ride, leave a car at the Twin Creek Pavilion about 1/4 mile above US-93. It is a perfect post ride spot to enjoy a few brews; there is also water there and plenty of parking.
For convenience, you can start the ride at the Lost Trail Pass Visitors Center or Lost Trail Ski Area. The Saddle Mountain Road starts between the buildings of the ski area just to the left of the lodge and rentals. You can cut out 1000' of climbing by driving ~2 miles up Saddle Mountain Road.
The beginning of this ride is on the Lost Trail - Saddle Mountain Road
through Lost Trail Powder Mountain Ski Area. The road soon leaves the backside of the ski area and contours across an open face where you get a great view of much of the rugged ride ahead. Evidence of the large forest fires of 2000 is prominent and pay attention to how flat the terrain isn't.
Take the two-track to the left where it drops steeply away from the road to a saddle, then climbs. Follow this two-track for half a mile to the beginning of the Divide Trail #106
(North Section) at a small info kiosk. The Divide Trail is generally easy to follow and stays on or near the crest of the ridge top and the state line.
The first two miles of singletrack mostly descends through the woods and comes to a small grassy meadow after passing through an area of burned trees. Here, you leave the state line and the ride gets more physically demanding.
After the steep climb up from the meadow, the trail crosses a shallow stream, leaves the burned trees for greener vegetation, and climbs steeply once again. Soon after, the trail rejoins the crest of the divide and continues to climb.
The trail now stays on the ID/MT border for the next 3.5 miles. There are very steep climbs with some unavoidable hike-a-bike and steep fast descents. The trail follows the ridge; sometimes open with great views, sometimes dense forest and the old burn. Don't be confused by the sign marking Twin Creek Ridge
#109 and stay on the divide.
Contouring back into Idaho, the trail leaves the divide and begins a steep and loose sidehill descent down to the head of Twin Creek. Look for the sign marking the junction with Twin Creek #108
and take a left.
The steep descending continues and is sometimes very steep. There are areas of dry sidehill, wet areas with lush vegetation and some rock challenges. The trail stays on the left side of Twin Creek.
About two miles after leaving the Divide Trail, Twin Creek #108
is blocked by a large downed tree. This tree hides a switchback in the trail. Just bushwhack straight down looking for the trail to take off back to the right. It is easy to lose the trail here so pay attention.
Once back on the singletrack, the trail bears around left to parallel the creek again. There are a couple of old cabins hidden in the woods in this area. While no longer as steep as before, the descending continues with hiccups of brief climbs.
You'll come to a broad, fairly rideable, stream crossing. The trail crosses to the right hand side of the creek and stays there for the next half mile. Again, mostly descending with short quick climbs and another stream crossing.
This crossing is deeper and more challenging. We have seen it ridden during low water levels a few times. Whether you can ride it or not, you'll get wet. A large downed tree is partially across the creek here, and you can try to cross on it. There is often debris blocking the way and it can be more harrowing than the creek.
Once back on the left side of Twin Creek, it is just over a half mile to the end of the trail. A couple of steep drops and a couple of steep ups are split by a chunky pedal-banging rock field crossing. The end of the trail crosses a wet, muddy section and comes out on two-track.
It is just over a half mile to the parking area and the pavilion.
History & Background
The Civilian Conservation Corp. was active between 1933 and 1942. There were several CCC camps in the Salmon and North Fork area. Crews constructed bridges and many miles of road. They built lookout towers (236 in Idaho alone) and responded to forest fires. Many recreational improvements were made as well. These can be seen on trails that are still in use today and around the pavilion at the Twin Creek Campground, which is still in great shape after 80 years.