After talking about it for the past five years, we finally ran Montana’s Lionhead Mountain this past weekend. The Lionhead roadless area is an incredibly wild place only 15 miles west of the western entrance of Yellowstone National Park, but with zero the crowds and all the grizzlies!
Fritz’s family has a cabin on Hebgen Lake and the Lionhead straddles the Idaho/Montana border making up the Continental Divide just southwest of the lake. Every time we drive to the cabin I gaze up at the Lionhead ridge and sigh, “I want to go up there.”
Scouring the Internets and an old USGS quad map it looked like the best way to the top of Lionhead Peak was to follow the 4WD road from highway 20 at the Montana/Idaho border, connect with the Continental Divide Trail for a few miles before bushwhacking to the top of the ridge and following the ridge all the way to the top of Lionhead mountain. As it turns out, there is the most beautiful single track trail all the way to the peak that doesn’t appear on any of our maps.
With bear spray and several clanging bear bells, Aussie Roo, Fritz, and I headed out under entirely smoke filled skies. The trail was mostly runnable with only a few short sections of scree averaging anywhere from 200-600 feet per mile gain. The only wildlife we spied was one lone elk, but if I was a grizzly, I would totally hide out here.
On top of the ridge we spotted a jar placed in a tree containing an emergency poncho (how nice!) and a log of sorts with very few visitors documented this year. We did run into a backpacker on the ridge and one mountain biker so we weren’t the only ones out there on this day.
All in all the out and back from Highway 20 was about 13 miles with just over 3,000 feet of elevation gain. Sadly the smoke obscured almost all of our views, but this run would be jaw-droppingly beautiful on a clear day with views stretching into Yellowstone National Park and up to Big Sky I would guess not to mention all of Hebgen Lake.