Thursday, January 5, 2017

Snyder Ridge Jungle Gym

Found some trip reports I never got around to posting from last year...

Tired of the crowds in Glacier National Park and looking to add some gymnastics to your hiking experience?  Try the Snyder Ridge Fire Trail in early season.

Others have called this a “poorly maintained trail through a wooded ridge with limited views” which is true. But where else can you have the trail all to yourself in Glacier (at least without a ford)?
A series of single blowdowns of varying heights provide a warm up on the climb to the ridge. 
First you have to find the trailhead.  You won’t see the sign from the road unless you look deep in the shadows. There is no parking area, just a turnoff on the other side of the road and the sign hiding in the trees.
A few triples. You can almost get a rhythm going if you get a running start.
All quiet going through massive groves of old-growth cedar.
Rest at the view-through-the-trees once you gain the ridge
Along the top, extensive areas of forest along the ridge were upturned. The trail here is completely covered by a huge tangled jungle gym of stacked-up downed-trees. I suspect it was recent, since there was no sign anyone had been this way- no footprints, no broken branches.  Maybe sometime it will get cleared?
The forest is an endless abyss of disorienting branches that attack with their stabbing and jabbing and snagging. 
Then a clear part. It's enough to get your hopes up that maybe it won't be so hard the entire way.
Then more of this.
After a while, when you give up on thinking of this as a walk and give into the reality, try imagining you are still a kid, climbing up and over and around and through the tangled trees and pretend you are having fun. Work on balance beam moves. 
Some trees are so big that have to launch yourself up to get up on top of them.
More excitement: Climb to the top of the heap of broken up trees, and scan the area as far as you can see for some sign of where the trail might go.  Did you forget which way you were going when you were climbing up and over and through, trying not to plummet into the sea of sticks and needles? 
Navigating the playground is not a walk in the park.  Over seven miles of gymnastics is exhausting.  Especially when you get turned around and end up going the wrong direction for an hour.

Did that just happen?  An entire hour of not once checking map, compass or Gaia GPS?  Not once looking up to see the mountain peaks on the wrong side? Not even looking at the cell phone!

When’s the last time *anything* has been that engaging?
Close up view of beetle galleries.
The state of exhaustion is reached. The idea of turning around and hiking through that mess again seems completely crazy. 

It’s OK to bail.  The Lincoln Creek Trail intersects the Snyder Ridge Trail and leads 1.7 miles down to the Sun road.  It’s a well-maintained trail, another world.  Near the trailhead, there are even people! Hitchhiking in Glaicer is easy.  Much easier than doing this as an out and back. 

THANK YOU to the sweet young couple from Bigfork for the ride back to my car!

For more information
Snyder Ridge Fire Trail

Date hiked: 5/2/2016


  1. LOL that does look like a mess! It reminds me a little of when we tried to navigate the NETT 3 years ago. But probably worse!

    1. It really make me appreciate how quickly trails can get absorbed back into nature. I'm so glad we've got awesome trail crews in Montana to clear the other trails every year so quickly.

  2. I've been there!

    Not there, in Montana, but boy, some of those downed trees sure look familiar.

    I think a bunch of them used to be down on the ground pointing every whichway along the Quinault River in Washington. That was two seasons ago, so I'm guessing that there was plenty of time to move them to Montana so you could enjoy them too.

    Small world, eh?

    Reuse, recycle, annoy.

    1. That completely explains it. If only we could put trackers on them and follow them around the country wherever they go.

  3. Trails like this are so exhausting! I did one last winter. Tons of old growth trees down. A very cool adventure, but it kicked my butt.