Wagonhammer's Elk Loop offers a healthy dose of climbing and very uniquely challenging singletrack. This ride is often clear of snow in April giving some great backcountry riding months before the high country dries.
Spring is a spectacular time in Wagonhammer with hillsides covered in fields of arrowleaf balsamroot, lupine, and outcrops of fuchsia bloomed cactus.
Wildlife is commonly seen in springtime as well, with large elk herds present, deer, antelope, black bear, and the occasional wolf.
Views of the Beaverhead Mountains, Salmon River Mountains, and the hills of Wagonhammer are always just over your shoulder.
Rattlesnakes are common. Heed their rattle warning and leave them alone. Please close ALL gates between June 1 and Sept 1. If you find an open gate in these dates...close it!
This area is popular with hikers and horseback riders. Be an MTB ambassador, not an MTB jackass.
From the trailhead, the ride meanders gently upward on the Lower Wagonhammer Creek
singletrack near the right edge of a large meadow. At the upper end of this meadow, the trail meets an old closed road as it gets rocky and hugs the hillside.
About one mile from the trailhead is the first stream crossing (it is easy) and a junction in the trail at a fence gate. Go right here and begin climbing on old road bed reverting to singletrack. The ride climbs steadily for 1000' and two miles before leveling out for 1/2 mile and meeting a saddle and fence gate.
Cross this gate and get on the singletrack heading off to the left just below the fence and ridge line. You can see the trail contouring across the hillsides ahead. The next mile is narrow, sidehill singletrack and very challenging to most riders.
After the first sidehill section, the ride climbs to a saddle and a fence. Cross through the gate and bear left. The trail is often overgrown here and tough to spot. Bear left along the contours of the hill as the singletrack continues across a series of ridges and pine groves.
Another mile or so on and the singletrack meets a Lewis and Clark
carsonite trail marker. Here, the bottom drops out as the trail turns and follows this ridge straight down. At a saddle and another Lewis and Clark
marker, the trail cuts steeply hard right into the woods. The ride drops through this glade then cuts left, passes a water trough, and crosses the gulch.
This descent back to Wagonhammer Creek continues steeply with side hills and sage and glades and is easy to follow. There is another water trough and fence at the bottom of the descent. Cross the gate, go left and the descending continues but more gently now on Lower Wagonhammer Creek
. Just below this junction is a stream crossing.
After the stream crossing, the trail continues gradually down, crosses another fence, then gets rocky and chunky. Surely there are rattlesnakes lurking here! After the rocky section, the ride comes to the head of an alluvial meadow and Little Thompson Gulch
comes in from the right.
At the lower end of this meadow is another stream crossing and the ride come to another gate. This is the bottom of the Elk Loop climb. Go ahead and do another lap! Or cross the creek and continue back to the trailhead.
Add a trip up Little Thompson Gulch
for more Wagonhammer-style fun with Burns Basin Loop
Please close ALL gates between June 1 and Sept 1.
Lewis and Clark
followed the prehistoric Indian Trail through the foothills of Wagonhammer in August of 1805.
Later, miners and freighters crossed through the area to access the mining in the Gibbonsville area as there was not yet a road along the river at that time.
The mouth of Wagonhammer Creek has signs of the homestead that was present there until recently. While the buildings are no longer there, the fruit trees are.
Below the Wagonhammer trailhead is Wagonhammer Springs. This site was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corp. as a works project during the Great Depression.