VTC – North Fork Blackfoot

Home Discover the Wild Volunteer Trail Crew VTC – North Fork Blackfoot
Photo by Meg Killen

Project: North Fork Blackfoot

Landscape: Scapegoat Wilderness

Dates: May 13 - 16, 2021

Location: Hobnail Tom Trail - Lolo Natl. Forest, Seeley Lake R.D.
Project Work: Trail Maintenance
Camping: Frontcountry Car Camping
Project Difficulty: Very Strenuous
Volunteer Limit: 8
Volunteer Slots Available: FULL
Meeting Time: Thursday, May 13 at 7 p.m.
Meeting Place: North Fork TH – Outfitter Corrals



Project Description

The headwaters of the North Fork of the Blackfoot River flow from the Scapegoat Wilderness, the southernmost unit of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. "The Bob," as it is lovingly referred to by locals, is the crown jewel of our National Wilderness Preservation System. The Hobnail Tom Trail parallels the North Fork as it flows from the Continental Divide and through steep canyon walls toward the Blackfoot Valley. It is one of the first trails to melt out, making it a popular early-season access point into The Bob. The trail sees sustained by hikers and outfitters throughout the summer and fall.

Heavy use and the steep canyon topography mean the Hobnail Tom Trail requires frequent maintenance. Our volunteer crew has worked progressively from the trailhead the past few years, meaning this year's maintenance needs are further upriver. Each day, we'll hike three miles along the river to Smoke's Bridge. From there we will begin maintenance work along the trail as it winds further into the Scapegoat Wilderness. We'll be widening and grading the trail, brushing back encroaching vegetative growth, improving drainage, and clearing down trees along the way. Additional maintenance work is needed on the nearby Lake Mountain trail, which we will address as time and snowpack allows.

Your hard work will help ensure this storied wilderness trail remains accessible for years to come. Join us on this trip to kick start your summer with meaningful work, stunning panoramas, and the camaraderie of fellow wilderness enthusiasts. 

About the Area

The Scapegoat Wilderness was designated in 1972 through a grassroots community effort, earning a place in history as the first citizen-initiated wilderness area in the nation. That same collaborative spirit is alive today in the Blackfoot Clearwater Partnership. For the last decade, timber, recreation, and conservation interests have worked together to hash out lasting solutions to public lands management in the Blackfoot-Clearwater valley. The resulting Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, which was introduced in Congress by Senator Tester, is the fruit of their labors.

The BCSA would extend wilderness protections to an additional 80,000 acres in the Mission, Scapegoat and Bob Marshall Wilderness Areas. This would permanently protect the North Fork of the Blackfoot, Monture Creek, Grizzly Basin, the wild Swan Front, and the West Fork of the Clearwater. These areas provide crucial habitat for grizzly bears, westslope cutthroat trout, bull trout, and the largest herd of mountain goats in the vicinity of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The BCSA also increases the pace and scale of forest restoration, providing a boost to the local timber economy. Mountain bikers, hunters, snowmobilers, and anglers all also stand to gain from the passing of the BCSA.

Click for more information on the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act

Meeting Time & Place

Thursday, May 13, 7 p.m. at North Fork Blackfoot Trailhead (Outfitter Corrals)
Directions from Seeley Lake, MT:

  • Head south on Highway 83
  • From the junction of Montana Highways 83 and 20 (also known as Clearwater Junction) travel east on Montana Highway 200 for 19.5 miles
  • Turn north on North Fork Blackfoot Road #5550 and follow the signs 10.5 miles on a gravel road to the trailhead
  • Turn left on a road just before the main parking area to access the Outfitter Corrals.

This area is behind a locked gate and may not be accessible before the meeting time. MWA staff will have the key. If you arrive before the scheduled meet time, check to see if the gate is dummy locked. If so, you are free to head up to our campsite. Please close the gate behind you.

Camping Details

We'll be frontcountry car camping at the outfitter's corrals near the North Fork Blackfoot Trailhead. This will be a primitive set-up. Volunteers will help set up camp for the weekend, including installing a kitchen tarp. There is a pit toilet on site.

Project Difficulty

This will be a Very Strenuous project, primarily due to the amount of daily hiking. Our work will begin at least 3 miles from camp, meaning we will have a minimum hike of 6 miles a day. The total daily hike could exceed 10 miles. Elevation gain is gradual along the trail. Project work includes brushing, retread, clearing, and drainage. All work is physically demanding.

*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 conditions. 

Food and Water

MWA will provide all meals and cooking equipment. However, please arrive Thursday evening having already eaten or prepared to make your own supper. Your first meal provided will be breakfast on Friday. The last meal provided will be lunch fixings on Sunday. Dinner is not provided on Sunday evening. Volunteers are expected to help with food preparation and clean up on a rotating basis, but your crew leader will handle primary kitchen responsibilities. 

More Information