Over the years I had approached the ice caves in the Big Snowies Mountains Wilderness Study Area from Crystal Lake on the north side (Lewistown) of the range. This route's approach is from the south side via Judith Gap. The road is excellent and the trail somewhat shorter. It is still a 7-mile roundtrip and rises about 2,300 feet to the caves. The area is under consideration for wilderness designation and has been recommended as such by the latest Forest Service Plan. There is a bit of a trail-finding problem when the Niel Creek trail rises from the valley floor to the ridge. This comes a little more than a mile into the hike at a trail sign that has been shot up by some morons. The trail usage seems to indicate the trail goes straight ahead. However, if you look behind the damaged sign the real trail emerges. This route map shows that we followed the false trail and had to bushwhack to the ridgeline. Coming down we found the real trail, which is in great shape and easy to follow. Unlike many areas in northcentral Montana, this area hasn't been hit by fire and we walked in an old growth forest of Ponderosa and Douglas Fir pines. We found the openings to the caves filled with snow, and could only enter the first one.




Created by: montana_tom
Distance: 8.9 mi
Ascent: 2,805 ft
Date: 06/08/2017
Duration: 6 hrs 11 min
Descent: 2,743 ft
Difficulty: Intermediate


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