Explore the most popular birding trails in Deerlodge National Forest with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

The road is quite rough. 4wd isn't a necessity, but something with ground clearance is. The trail is very fun. The lakes are beautiful.

June 10th 2018.

You will not make it to the trail head without a 4x4 truck or Jeep. Stock 93 GMC 1500 did fine. Maybe an Outback would do it but you will be scraping on large rocks.

The trailhead has no signs or markings but it's easy to find.

The first half of the trail is wet but clear. there is a swampy area you have to walk around but the trail is easy enough to pick up again.

The 2nd half of the trail was dry and rocky. a few small downed trees, but not bad for such a remote trail.

The climb wasn't too bad. It's high elevation (7600ft) so I don't recommend going in early June like me unless the forecast is clear. Rain was forecasted but we woke up to 3" of snow.

Beautiful lake, at least 2 big sites with fire rings. I recommend it if your car can make it!

This road is NOT something you should take a car down. The rugs are very deep and snow still on parts of the road. Only saw atv’s trying the road. I had to turn around unfortunately

FYI the trail and trail head are still there! You have to drive the road that follows the right side of the lake when you reach the small group of cabins at the end of the road there will be a small parking area on the right, after that you have to hike the rest of the way up the road into the trail head unless you have an atv or side by side. Great hike!!!

11 months ago

Warning! By July of 2017 the condition of Rock Creek Lake Road & Old Stage Road has really deteriorated. Definitely need a vehicle with higher clearance, 4WD. Also, as far as we could see, there is no access to the trailhead any more. The dam road is blocked by several large boulders & a new-looking wooden gate & fencing block the road on the other side of the dam. Disappointing after a stressful hour + drive from Deer Lodge (14 miles!). We walked along the road by the lake for a couple hours, which was nice, but we couldn't see any sign of a trail.

11 months ago

The entire Anaconda-Pintler loop is disappointing if you like glaciated peaks and rocky shore lakes to jump into. The passes are below timberline. The views come through acres of burned treestumps (thus, it's hot). To lake dump one has to wade through muck and grasses. The trail is wickedly not maintained: blowdowns to climb over, under, or around, slopping paths, unmarked junctions. Back to the Beartooths I go.

b n n

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Not single track. Trucks on the road while hiking. Didn't realize it was a road and not a true trail.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Beautiful pristine lakes, hard trail with a backpack for the first mile. However the trail can be somewhat deceiving because of fallen trees but take a moment to look around and you can pick it up if you have good intuition. Camp sites at first and second lakes are available. Easily one of the best kept secrets in this forest.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Gorgeous hike!! Not too hard either. We stopped at the Lower Dolus lake when we saw how great the fishing was and I found a perfect hammock spot. Really the hardest part was getting TO the hike. You really need a 4x4 with a high clearance, the last 10 miles of the drive is a VERY rough dirt/rock road. **remember to check for ticks afterward**

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Helena native, drove thru Elkhorn & got stopped by high rocks on the road so walked from there 1/2 mile to the Queen Gulch intersection. Hiked in late May and it was me and my bro out of shape (age 19,20). Snow and rain melt was peak, and we had to jump the same 6+ ft wide stream obstructing the trail 3 separate times, pretty gnarly. Hike up is alright, but lots of rocks on path make it harder, if I was in shape it prob would be piece of cake. Once we made it to the intersection where it goes to Leslie lake to the left, and to the top trailhead in 2 miles to the right, we were running out of time cuz we started late in the day and we had dinner planned that night; decided to just go to Leslie lake on the left (much shorter, 3/4 mile). 1/2 a mile in and couldn't get past so much snow that was too dangerous for us. Turned around. Such a bummer. On top of that I lost my special knife my dad gave me I was carrying somewhere around there, maybe at the lookout at the start of the Leslie Lk trail, or somewhere along the way where we got buzzkilled by the 3 feet of snow in our way. Overall about 6 mile round trip hike for us, good exercise, bummed but will try again in July or August. (If you go up there and see my knife, just email iosgameplay1@gmail.com to return it. It has a black handle, just under 4 inches, in a black leather holder)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

We actually took Queen Gulch Rd up to Leslie lake, and on up. Very Strenuous, wide road, but rocky with lose footing. Not much switchback. Mostly steep incline! About an 8+ mi hike. About 5 hrs total with many breaks as we had a 76 yr old with us. Beautiful views!!! We loved the old abandoned mining town Elkorn before we got up to the trailhead. Looks like some people still live there, but not many. Definitely takes you back in time!! I highly recommend any of these trails.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Majestic forests with bright colored leaves carpeting the Tim Burton type curling grey trees.
Cute quaint little cabin about mid-way up with an old wooden tree swing to sit and rest and enjoy the sights.
Very challenging peak. Very large boulder field to the tippity top.
The view is well worth the climb.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Awesome hike. Road getting there can be a little rough in spots, recommend bringing an SUV or truck for that extra ground clearance (my Subi Impreza did just fine though). Hike is nice and moderate, a little steep the last mile or so but it's worth it once you get to the lakes. Really gorgeous, lots of little lakes in the area you could probably spend a day or two just exploring. I regret not bringing my fly rod! The trout were feeding like crazy in the Trask lakes. Completed August 2016.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Beautiful lake! Really steep for the first .25 mile of the trail. FYI don't forget your bug spray like me!

on Rainbow Lake

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Beautiful hike. I stayed the first night at Johnson Lake and the second at Rainbow Lake. Both lakes have good fishing. The view from Rainbow Pass makes the climb totally worth it. I think the round trip distance is closer to 18 miles than 14.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Great training mission, went with Dr Dave, a slightly younger, stronger friend, made the mistake of letting him lead!? Ya he put the hurting on me. I'm thinking we could have taken 4 hours instead of 3 and been comfortable. The last 500 feet was all head for me,Dave cruised it. Beautiful sunny day, but very cold with 30 mile gusts above tree line. Funny how much easier it was coming down, and much faster as well. PS I will be 69 in 2 weeks

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Geocache box at Elkhorn peak was getting full, so friends and I hiked up to the peak with a larger box and then transferred everything over, took the old smaller box over to Crow peak and left it there since the box on crow peak was way too small for what was in it. Great hike, glad to check Crow Peak off my list. For those hiking to Elkhorn and wondering if Crow peak is worth the effort, it absolutely is! Just make sure you don't do so late in the year like us, it took us 2 hours to get between Elkhorn and Crow, and another 2 hours back because the rocks that are already so treacherous to climb were also rimed with frost and loose snow. Not a good combination, took alot of nasty falls. Came out with nothing broken, but would not try again this late in the year.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My wife and I summited Elkhorn peak on 10/12/15. The easiest way to get up to Elkhorn is to take an ATV from the town of Elkhorn for 3.5 mile up the iron mine road (aka Diego Town Road, aka Muskrat Creek). From there it's about .8 miles with an 800 foot elevation gain travelling SE to the summit. Unless there's a tree across the trail at the 2 mile mark...which there was. So we had 2.5 miles to the top with 2000 foot elevation gain. That took us about 2 hours to the peak. The last 300 vertical is rock scrambling. The views are phenomenal. There's an ammo can with a log book and someone even left a pair of binoculars in the can so you can enjoy the views. We stayed about 5 minutes because the wind was howling and we had dropped our packs at the bottom of the rocks so we could make a quick ascent to the 9381' peak. You can go all the way to the end of the main road and head up, or you can turn on a well defined trail as the elevation flattens. This takes you to a locked gate that allows non-motorized use, goes by a recreation cabin and the trail is well defined until you hit treeline. From there you can see the peak so just keep going up.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Went a few days ago,without the dog this time, and made it to the top of the peak. Signed the log book and added some stuff to the geocache box. Didn't bring my camera which is unfortunate because the views from the top of the peak is beyond exhilarating. Able to see Helena Valley, Townsend Valley, Whitehall Valley and the Elk park area near Butte. You have a completely breathtaking view of every mountain range within 100 miles. Enjoyed lunch and a celebratory beer atop the peak before heading down. Plan on doing it again with the camera.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Good trail in well maintained less used wilderness. Recommend as an overnight hike. The view from Rainbow pass is worth trip. Bring fishing rod for Rainbow and Johnson Lake.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Hiked the trail again and finally made it to the peaks. Was a beautiful hike, and made it to the base of the peaks with the dog in about 3 hours. Both the dog and I attempted to ascend the last few hundred yards up to the peak, but were defeated by rocks repeatedly rolling under our feet, so we turned back in the interest of not having broken ankles. Glad to be able to check this one off finally, I've hiked it a few times but had never made it to the peaks.

Just a word of advice to those hiking up here, hike slowly and give yourself time to acclimate once you get near the peaks. My hike down was pretty miserable due to altitude sickness, having to stop numerous times to catch my breath, puke, or sit down till I stopped being shaky.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Grew up in Boulder and this place has amazing potential. Unfortunately, the current owners prevent it from ever reaching it. They refuse to do any kind of upkeep with the building, so it appears to be in shambles. The rooms are austere and simple, with no modern "luxuries". The place has an incredibly beautiful old bar and ballroom that could be a popular attraction if renovated and utilized, but they choose to use those rooms to hold seances. Yes seances. The hot pools and steam room have appeared dirty every time I've been there, and the outside pool has so many "rules" that you may as well hang out inside and read the paper. Food is bland, organic dishes that do not encourage an appetite. I'd apologize for such a negative review if I didn't live in Boulder, and like so many others here, see so much wasted potential.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Beautiful hike and I enjoyed the drive out there. The ghost town is fun to check out. The hike is strenuous and the terrain is rocky, but so worth it! I would recommend poles for sure and good tread! The views are amazing..it's not busy with people and you'll feel like you really accomplished something when your done!

Monday, June 15, 2015

We did this as a backpacking overnighter. The first 2 miles are pretty swampy but after that it is only swampy in a couple of places. The lakes are gorgeous and no snow to mention left around the lakes. Several campsites to choose from.

Friday, June 12, 2015

went for a day hike very swampy but very beautiful

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Really beautiful spot! Just backpacked up to lower Trask lake for one night. It's decently snowy up there still but there are dry spots for a tent. The trail to get up there is prrrrretty swampy however, so if you're heading up, be prepared for soggy feet.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

An awesome hike to make a day out of! Just make sure to go late in the season, or you will encounter snow. I took the hike on July 26th, and still hit patches of snow after the 3 mile mark. The trailhead starts out above the ghost town of Elkhorn, where you can explore the old buildings like the saloon and fraternity hall either before your hike or after. Keep an eye out for wildlife, as I saw an abundance of whitetail deer, some furtive elk, and some grouse on my hike. This hike is strenuous, as it is about 3.5 miles of steeply inclined hiking to the" base" of Elkhorn Peak, where you have another .5 mile scramble up a rock/scree slope to the top. From here you can hike the ridge saddle to nearby Crow Peak, not sure of distance between peaks. When I took the hike, I opted to skip the last section to the peak, as my legs were already burning. There are plenty of spots along the trail to stop for a drink and a breath(I know, I stopped often), but you do need to bring your own water as I saw one tiny creek the whole hike up. After hiking back down, I opted to take some time to enjoy the wildflowers, and explore the abandoned buildings. I also hiked over to the cemetary, which is a mile or so in the opposite direction of the trailhead, and worth a look if you have the time and energy. I plan on doing the hike again this summer, and hope to have the energy to make it to the peak this year.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Easy to follow trail, pretty steep at the beginning but then it levels out. There are two lakes, both are gorgeous! Could do an overnight at the lower lake as there is a clearly defined camp spot. We ran into a mama moose and her baby on the way down the trail :-)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tough Terrain!! Not Many Brave To Scale The Ridge!!

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