Backcountry Snowshoe and Snowboard near Lolo Pass

3 miles 1250 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Ross Perkins

An incredibly scenic drive that snakes you through one of the most desolate areas of the United States. No cell service allows your mind to clear and no lift line allows you to shred untouched terrain. This relatively easy venture delivers nothing but bliss.

For this trip, you want to head towards Lolo Pass, which is the landmark of the Idaho/Montana border on Highway 12. This highway's two main towns that it begins and ends at are Lolo, Montana and Lewiston, Idaho.

If you are on the Montana side, Crooked Fork Road is just a mere 100 yards from the Lolo Peak Trailhead, on the right. From Idaho, it is just past Lolo Pass on your left on the Montana side. Cell service is basically non-existent and you'll want a full tank of gas before heading that way since convenience areas are extremely limited.

Highway 12 is a very curvy 2-lane highway that has been known to be covered in snow and ice; driving precautions are necessary and checking the road report is a very smart idea. However, upkeep is very frequent and snowplows are typically abundant in the area. The trailhead for Crooked Fork Road is a relatively small parking lot that only accommodates a handful of vehicles. This is a very popular area for snowmobiling as well, so large trucks and trailers fill much of this parking lot, but cars will be sprinkled in as well.

The road that you'll snowshoe up is very apparent from the trailhead. It is also maintained and the snow is packed down pretty solid by a Groomer. When I go with friends – strength in numbers when it comes to the backcountry– we typically hike in about a mile and a half. A mile on the groomed road, then half a mile up the side of a ridge and snowboard down to the trailhead.

There is a lot of terrain in this area though, so it is pretty much free range on where you want to hike to. There are multiple areas with large trees, and other areas filled with small trees that were planted after a wildfire engulfed the area. Depending on skill level, you can choose accordingly. Also, depending on how long you feel like snowshoeing and snowboarding, you can choose which peak you want to tackle.

Even in blizzard conditions, the surroundings are awe-inspiring. On a clear day though, your hike to the top of a ridge will provide you with gorgeous sights of peaks near and far.

Always keep your direction in mind and when you find a line that you want to slide down the mountain on, make sure that it either delivers you back to the trailhead or to the main road that you hiked up. Proximity is key in the backcountry.

All in all, this area can be tackled by any skill level from Intermediate to Expert. To get the most out of it, you must be comfortable riding trees, but even a beginner can hike up and ride the groomed road back down. I would essentially classify that as a Blue Square/Easy run.

For an epic drive, no lifts lines and surroundings that will engulf you– be sure to explore Crooked Fork Road.

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Avalanche safety?

There was nothing mentioned here about avalanche safety. The gear list should include a shovel, probe, and avalanche transceiver, along with knowledge on how to use them. Traveling in avalanche terrain can be extremely dangerous, especially without knowledge and experience.

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