VTC #12 – Big Snowies

Home Discover the Wild Volunteer Trail Crew VTC #12 – Big Snowies
Photo by Meg Killen

Project: Big Snowies

Landscape: Big Snowy Mountains W.S.A.

Dates: August 22 – 25, 2019

Location: Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest, Judith R.D.
Project Work: Trail Maintenance
Camping: Frontcountry
Project Difficulty: Strenuous
Volunteer Limit: 8
Volunteer Slots Available: FULL
Meeting Time & Place: Thursday, August 22nd, 6:00 p.m. @ Lewistown Albertsons

***This project is full. All registrations will go to the waitlist.***


Project Description

Thanks to the passion and commitment of our volunteers, MWA has been able to expand the scope of our stewardship vision. While we used to focus exclusively on the Continental Divide and Rocky Mountain ranges of western Montana, our program's renewed initiative embraces wildlands further to the east. This summer's trail project in the Big Snowies, a towering range rising from the prairies of central Montana, is our first step in stewarding our state's grand island ranges .

The Big Snowies have an extensive network of trails, offering world class hiking opportunities that rival those of more renowned landscapes to the west. And just like those trails, they need regular upkeep and maintenance. We'll work from the east side's Ulhorn Trailhead and perform routine maintenance tasks that improve hiking and riding conditions and promote the sustainability of trails. These tasks include brushing vegetation from the corridor, installing drainage structures, retreading sloughed sections and addressing boggy spots on the trail. Your work will make a positive impact and go a long way towards helping the overworked Forest Service keep up with annual maintenance needs!

About the Area

"The Big Snowy Mountains have long been a unique and revered destination. Early first people visited its basins and summits. Their artifacts and art still sporadically adorn the range. Lower slopes and foothills were homesteaded and have become large, iconic ranches. Unique, biophysical phenomena, such as ice caves, continue to attract intrepid visitors. Crystal Lake Guard station still actively facilitates Forest Service stewardship.

The Big Snowies are higher in elevation and larger in size than the Little Snowies range. The spine of the dominant landform runs east-west for approximately 25 miles, and 10 miles north-south. Middle elevations are clad with coniferous trees. At the highest elevations, the forest transitions into a tree-less plateau of alpine that is characterized by rock and tundra. Slopes vary from steep rocky canyons to gentle benches.

Streams flowing out of the north side of the Big Snowies flow into the Judith River. Those flowing out of the south side flow into the Musselshell River. Many streams originate in steep-walled, amphitheater-like basins and emerge out through canyons. The climate and porous limestone imbues a dry character to the range. Crystal Lake is one of the Big Snowies’ crown jewels. It is a shallow lake of natural origin, roughly 15 feet at its deepest and underlain by a bed of limestone. There are a number of developed recreation sites along Crystal Lake including a campground, day use areas, boat launch, trailhead, and cabin rental. Several dispersed trails take off from this location and provide access to interesting interpretive points such as the Ice Caves which are located within the GA. The geographic areas karst topography conceals many caves. Floristically, the Big Snowies are unique with many vegetation types compressed into the same area. Fire was the historic driver of plant communities." – excerpt from Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest "Snowy Mountains."

Meeting Time & Place

Thursday, August 22nd, 6:00 p.m. @Lewistown Albertsons 

Since the trailhead can make for somewhat difficult navigation, we will meet at the Albertsons in downtown Lewistown at 6:00 PM. From there we will caravan to the Ulhorn Trailhead. Directions to the trailhead are referenced below.

Directions to Ulhorn Trailhead from Lewistown:
The Uhlhorn Trailhead is approximately 23 miles south from Main Street Lewistown, Montana. From Main Street in Lewistown turn south onto 1st Avenue S/MT-238. Continue to follow MT-238 for 11.3 miles. Turn slight right onto Red Hill Road. Continue 11.2 miles and Uhlhorn Trailhead will be on the right.

Camping Details

We will be frontcountry car camping at the Ulhorn Trailhead for the weekend. This will be a primitive setup without established camping pads or picnic tables. There is a vault toilet but no other amenities at the trailhead.

Project Difficulty

This will be a Strenuous project. Please reach out if you have any questions or concerns about your ability to participate safely in this project.

*Note: project work is subject to change. Our tasks may become easier or more challenging. Your flexibility in the field is appreciated as we adapt to changing conditons. 

Food and Water

MWA will provide all food and cooking equipment. First meal provided will be breakfast Friday morning. No dinner provided Thursday night so please plan accordingly. Your last provided meal will be lunch on Sunday.

Volunteers are expected to help with food preparation and clean up on a rotating basis, but your crew leader will handle primary kitchen responsibilities. There is no drinking water availble at camp so please help by bringing along your own drinking water for the weekend.

More Information