While making my way to Garnet Ghost Town in 2019, I found a little ridge that had an incredible view and I knew I would come back while weaving through Montana’s best ghost towns, as part my American Old West Expedition.
Room With A View
Garnet Range, Montana
During the Coeur d’Alene Gold Rush, the Wild & Scenic St. Joe River became the main transportation artery plied by sternwheelers and steam trains linking the Idaho Panhandle with Montana. St. Joe flows down the western slopes of the Bitterroot Mountains.
I followed abandoned rails that criss-cross the St.Joe, up and over Flattop Mountain and to towards Mullan Road Gulch.
I sought a route that would avoid the I-90, by looking for more rail-to-trail routes and bits of the Mullan Military Road, the first wagon road to cross the Rocky Mountains, blazed in 1860.
While trying to avoid the Interstate I came across heritage trails that climbed well above Mullan Gulch.
Sadly, my hope for a pass-thru trail encountered private property.
Out of the 4750 Mile Expedition, I was able to stay on dirt roads 73% of the time, and forced to use Interstate’s only 3% of the route. Most of the expedition Interstate was on this Leg, where I had to incorporate bits of I-90. Fortunately most of the remaining 24% of the entire expedition that was paved, was often on sleepy secondary routes and service roads like this one.
Never did find any open abandoned rails segments, albeit many are visible on both sides of I-90, along Clark Fork. I got did get back on the Mullan Road a few times, but wherever it got interesting, I encountered private land.
After passing through Missuola, I explored interesting trails as I made my way up and over the Garnet Range, making my way to a great little creek side camp that my son and I found, on a previous scouting trip.
Arriving in the rain on the fourth night of my cross-country expedition seemed appropriate.
Back in 2018, my son and I spent two nights sheltered under the same tree. I mean it poured so bad, we spent a day reading while listening the rain bounce of the roof.
When the weather finally broke we were able to appreciate the beauty of our boon-dock.
From here, it was a short jump to the Ghost Town of Garnet and Coloma atop the Garnet Range.