[cdt-l] CDT - Gros Ventre notes

Ginny & Jim Owen spiritbear2k at hotmail.com
Thu Jun 28 01:01:04 CDT 2007

Last year we were forced to skip about 40 miles of the CDT through the Gros 
Ventre Wilderness by the Purdy fire (http://www.inciweb.org/incident/402/ ). 
  This year we came back to hike that section of the Trail.  We got off the 
trail this afternoon.   The Gros Ventre is a beautiful section of trail, 
with green flower filled meadows and lots of wildlife, but it is also one of 
the more challenging sections for navigation.  A few years ago there was a 
quote in DividEnds, “I spent three days lost in the Gros Ventre.  It was the 
best part of the trail.”  Having spent the past three days wandering there, 
both sentences are very easy to understand.

In any case, we have a few comments on the section that some of this years 
hikers might find useful.  Have to admit – we didn’t have Jim Wolf’s 
guidebook – it disappeared somewhere between Maryland and Wyoming.  It may 
still be in the truck someplace but we couldn’t find it before we left here 
on Monday.  Some of our comments are probably covered in the guidebook, but 
just in case they aren’t . . .

We started at Union Pass, which is where we bailed last year 
(http://spiriteaglehome.com/cdt06%20wy3.html – Aug 14/15).  There’s marked 
CDT trail from Union Pass to Lake of the Woods, but when you get past the 
Lake, the trail takes a sharp, unmarked left turn on a closed Forest road.  
See Jonathon’s map WY12.

Next – Jonathon’s map WY11 – at his point 1, there’s a CDT marker heading 
through the fence and down the abandoned jeep road rather than making the 
right turn and following the fence along the ridge.  We made the decision 
with malice aforethought to follow the CDT markers – which descended from 
the ridge, wound around and then made an acute right turn at Bullmoose 
Creek.  The markers were NOT all CDT markers – most of them were unadorned 
Carsonite posts with just enough CDT decals to lure us on.  After Bullmoose 
Creek, the trail wound back up the ridge on a logging road then split off on 
very faint footpath - where we lost the whole thing in the willows of 
another drainage.  At that point, we gave it up and bushwhacked back up to 
the ridge and the road we would have been on if we’d followed Jim Wolf’s 
route along the Divide -- the directions in Jonathon’s comment 1. Personal 
opinion is that following those CDT markers isn’t a good idea right now.  
Stick with the guidebook and Jonathon’s map route.  The CDT blazing is 
really erratic in this whole section.  At first there were many markers.  
Then they spread out to about one a mile, with none at the road junctions.  
In the seven mile section south of Sheridan Pass we saw three markers – two 
marking a short detour off the jeep track through burned forest, and one at 
the pass.

The bushwhack up Leeds Creek was no big deal – just pay attention to the 
map.  We followed faint horse trail most of the way.  When you get to 
Jonathon’s comment 3, there’s a really nice spring and an old, old horse 
camp.  We stayed there in 1999 and watched a moose watering in the stream 
when we got up in the morning.  This time, we found fresh bear tracks and 
scat in the morning – hang your food.  This is also the point where we 
believe the CDT markers that begin at comment 1 connect although we didn’t 
actually find any CDT markers here.

In any case, at the top of Leeds Creek you have a choice of jeep track, 
horse trail or orange snowmobile markers all heading in the same general 
direction.  Don’t make the mistake of trying to follow either the old jeep 
road that heads west off the ridge or the pack trail that crosses the ridge 
– the CDT follows brand new orange markers into the woods and up the knob to 
the northeast.  The trail follows the orange diamonds for the next 7 miles – 
all the way to Sheridan Pass.  Once upon a time there was a jeep trail along 
the ridge, but it has been a long time since it has been used by vehicles – 
and in many places the ruts have been reclaimed by meadow grass  and 
flowers.   Just keep following the blazes and you’ll be fine.  Someone was 
out since last years fires and put up lots of snowmobile trail markers – but 
no CDT markers.

At Sheridan Pass (marked by a post with an old, old CDT marker), the trail 
turns west and goes down the Squaw Creek drainage.  After a couple hundred 
yards, there’s pack trail that goes for several miles down Squaw Creek.  
It’s not great trail, but don’t make the mistake of blaming horses for the 
damage – the tracks were all moose, elk, deer, bear, etc.  We’ve had more 
than one good belly laugh at those who insist that all trail damage is due 
to horse traffic.

About 3 miles down Squaw Creek, after the third crossing of the creek, we 
cut off south on pack trail into the Open Fork drainage (the Sheridan 
Trail?) and in about ¼ mile turned off on faint trail up to the road (a 200’ 
climb).  We followed the road all the way down to Papoose Creek (it’s longer 
than it looks on the map – the map lies again – but it’s not excessive).  
Question: is there actually trail on the north side of Squaw Creek for the 
lower 2 miles?  We never saw it when we got to the Papoose Creek confluence. 
  When we were heading south in 1999 we followed the road up until it 
deadended, then bushwhacked up to the Divide.  It was a very rough bushwhack 
with lots of blowdowns.  What have other northbound hikers done there?

The road walk up Fish Creek is easy and a little shorter than Jonathon 

At the intersection with Beauty Park Creek, there’s a good campsite up the 
hill before the creek, easy access to water and the trail up to Beauty Park 
is at the apex of the curve – right where Jonathon’s map WY10, comment 4 
places it.  We followed yellow diamond markers for about a mile, then lost 
the trail in a willow-filled meadow.  The blazes probably turned right; we 
continued straight and lost the trail.  No big deal.  There was some 
bushwhacking involved here, but basically, when the trail disappeared, we 
followed the grassy swath northeast.  In about 10 minutes we found an old 
logging road heading upstream. Follow it up to Beauty Park and the right 
turn onto pack trail that’ll take you to the Larkspur Creek drainage.  A 
question for southbound hikers – does the logging road  continue out to the 
jeep road (30750)?

Following Jonathan’s map, we began a bushwhack uphill beside Larkspur Creek, 
but after a while we found another good pack trail that climbed over the Two 
Ocean Mtn ridge and down into Squaw Basin where we picked up a jeep track 
that led to a jeep road (30010) that turns east for about 3 miles along the 
Divide to the highway and Togwotee Pass.

For southbound hikers – follow the jeep road from Togowottee Pass for about 
2 ½ miles.  At the third jeep track to the left (actually there are two 
tracks that meet the road together at an old tire) head uphill (south) 
toward the ridge.  After about 1 mile the track ends at a campsite next to 
the mountain.  Pick up the pack trail there and follow it around the 
mountain, over the ridge, then down as far as you can.  Others may be able 
to answer the question of whether the pack trail goes all the way to Beauty 
Park.  It was good trail with occasional orange diamonds – not on the Forest 

As to fire damage – there was some, but not a lot.  We had about a mile of 
continuous burn up on the divide north of Leeds Creek, but nothing that was 
a problem for hikers.  There were a few other small burned patches.  A 
bigger problem is the pine borer that is killing the forest all over the 

The plus side of this section – beautiful green meadows, lots of 
wildflowers, lots  of wildlife (elk, deer, antelope, moose, sandhill cranes 
and bears), plenty of water and total solitude.  It was a great hike.

One last note - if you stay at the Trails End motel in Dubois, they'll 
shuttle you back to the trail - for a price.  We paid $25.  It was worth it 
to us.  If you're a cellphone carrier, you can also call from either 
Togwotee Pass or Union Pass and they'll come get you.  Phone number for 
Trails End is 307-455-2540.  It might take a while for them to pick you up.

Black Bear Inn is out of business.

Hope this helps some of this years hikers -

Walk softly.
Jim & Ginny


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