“Classic backcountry riding along Idaho's Continental Divide.”
— David Lingle
Deadfall is a constant along this ride. Local mountain bikers and horsemen cut it out every year but expect to see trees down across the trail.
This backcountry shuttle ride is a favorite in the area. Bradley Gulch to Sheep Creek will have you riding on a large variety of trail and terrain and give you a taste of remote, old-time Idaho.
Along this ride, there are very dry and open areas contrasted by the thick and lush forest areas. There is tough and technical singletrack contrasted by easy enjoyable cruising and steep climbs, tough stream crossings, all paired with brake-squealing descents.
Mix it all together and around every bend is a surprise to keep you on your toes. Stop from time to time on this ride to soak in this steep and deep corner of the Beaverhead Mountains.
Need to Know
Leave a vehicle at small unmarked pullout at the mouth of Sheep Creek Road #077
Ride this route as a shuttle from Big Hole Pass. It is almost 10 miles from US-93 and Gibbonsville up to Big Hole Pass and most of this is narrow, steep forest road. Give yourself time to get up there. Hopefully, you have a friend drop you off at the pass.
Loop Option 1: Riding US-93 and up Dahlonega Road to Big Hole Pass adds about 12mi and 3000' of climbing to Big Hole Pass.
Loop Option 2: Riding US-93 and up Lick Creek Road #078
adds over 13mi and almost 4000' of climbing to the start of the CDT singletrack.
The Broken Arrow Restaurant in Gibbonsville has beer and good Mexican food. A great post-ride stop.
Beginning at Big Hole Pass, the ride follows the two track, CDT - Lick Creek Road. It climbs on this road then descends to a saddle about a mile from the Pass. Look to the left for a faded and broken CDT sign and thin singletrack heading into the woods.
This section of the CDT rolls gently up and down through the woods and generally contours on the Montana side of the divide. After about two miles, the trail meets a hunter camp and two-track at the head of Bradley Gulch. From the edge of the ridge is your first view of Pyramid Peak and you can see the Sheep Creek drainage below where this ride is headed.
Through the camp is a gate across the steep road. To the left of the Gate continues the tread of the CDT across a steep and sometimes rocky sidehill. The ride drops through a few switchbacks and then meets that road again. The roadbed is overgrown with grass but is easy to follow and there are a couple of shallow stream crossings.
At the bottom of the downhill, the road meets Sheep Creek and the first major stream crossing. You'll be getting your feet wet here. It is possible to ride across at low water, not so much in June or July. Once across the creek, the old road climbs briefly and comes to the Sheep Creek Placer Cabin.
Continuing on the road about 1/10 mile beyond the cabin, the overgrown road forks at two carsonite trail markers. Bear right onto Sheep Creek #126
and descend, leaving marker #6129 and the CDT behind. After a quick, steep drop on the old road is another stream crossing. There is a tree here across the creek that can be used as a bridge, but branches make this tricky.
Once across Sheep Creek, the ride climbs briefly on primitive singletrack, then briefly descends and follows the creek bench. Look for the trail to leave this bench to the right and climb steeply. From here, the trail is well defined to the end of the ride.
The trail climbs 800' in the next two miles through old growth forest and across very steep, sometimes exposed, terrain. This climb is all rideable but very steep pitches will challenge traction, so expect to hike-a-bike.
You'll climb through an area of burned trees followed by a short descent. Another short climb brings you back into green trees topping out on a ridge.
Pass through this grove of trees and the beginning of a fast 500' downhill. This descent crosses steeply through dead and burned trees along the edge of the ridge then carves back into the shade through several switchbacks.
A gully crossing has you contouring up across on open face for ~1/2mi that can be covered in wildflowers during early summer.
Head back into the woods for the biggest descent of over 1000'. The trail is fast, steep and covered with very thick vegetation the lower you go. At the bottom is a shallow rideable crossing of Little Sheep Creek.
Continue descending along the right side of Sheep Creek through lush, creekside, in-your-face, vegetation. While nowhere near as steep along the creek, it can still be fast. Be ready to shift gears for short surprising climbs and wet or muddy pool crossings.
Once past several large boulders, the ride hits a forest road. Ride this about two miles down to main Sheep Creek Road and on to US-93.
History & Background
Old mining activity is evident along upper Sheep Creek. Once the CDT leaves Bradley Gulch, relics can be spotted along the edge of the road and the landscape shows evidence of placer mining. The old cabin next to the trail is still owned by the mining company that holds the claims in the area.