Thursday, September 16, 2010

The old guide trail to Talbot Canyon

Several decades ago, somebody - and I couldn't tell you who - built a steep-ass trail from just short of Pete's Corner in Lamoille Canyon, near the Glacier Overlook, over the top of the ridge to intersect the Talbot Canyon trail. The trail is four miles long, and was built by and for some awfully tough folks - or, at least, folks riding awfully tough horses. It's a 30% grade for much of its length.

That trail was allowed to fade into the grass over the years, and these days it takes some looking, a GPS, and a good imagination to find it. The hunting guides used to keep it cleaned out, but since they have access from the homeowners at the base of Talbot Canyon these days, it doesn't look as if they've done any trail clearing since the mid-1990's. That said, the trail's there, and some friends of mine are working with me to make it easier to find.

There are some good reasons for re-establishing this trail. First and foremost, for skiers, it allows reasonably ready access to some truly marvelous ski terrain. Getting up there otherwise is an interminable bushwhack, but with the trail in place accessing that ridge becomes more realistic. Painful, but realistic.

Second, with construction moving slowly on the Secret-Lamoille trail project, brushing out this old trail will allow access to Talbot Canyon and Verdi Lake more quickly. It's eight miles from Pete's Corner to Verdi Lake on this trail - doable as a day hike or day ride if you're really fit, very reasonable as an overnight if you're less insane.

And, third, once they DO get the Lamoille to Talbot section of the Secret-Lamoille Trail project done, people will have the option of a really nice loop route. This trail isn't close to suitable for bikes, but for everybody else it'd be a nice, if strenuous, trip.

So far, we have it located and brushed out to about where it says "On Ground" on the map. We still have quite a ways to go, obviously. If we can get the trail brushed to the ridgeline before ski season, I'll be really happy.

It's not very likely that the old trail left the road where it shows on the map. This was a horse trail, and the official GPSed route isn't doable by horses in a few spots. It probably took off down canyon a few hundred feet.

Even though it's steep, the trail is worth doing. Some of the views from up there are amazing. Here are Mt. Gilbert and Terminal Cancer couloir from the trail.

It's clear that this route needs a lot more than brushing. Some of the old rock work is findable, as is some of the benching. A lot of it just needs about four people with pulaskis and mcclouds for a couple of weeks.


  1. How does one locate the beginning of this trail? I understand it is just before Pete's Corner, and I understand that Pete's Corner is across from the Boy Scout Camp - but I do not know exactly where that is. Is the trailhead obvious? Apparent? Marked by a cairn or some other landmark? Which is easier - going up from Lamoille Canyon to this ridge or going up from the Terraces to the ridge overlooking Verdi Lake?

  2. I tried this trail today. I had hoped the de-bushing had made more progress but alas, I totally lost the trail where you mark your map.

    Also, I noticed from another post of yours that your dad's conventional wisdom had it that rattlesnakes could not be found above 7200 feet or so. Unfortunately I must report that this is greatly incorrect, as I ran into one at a shocking 9500 feet today. :(

  3. Holy moly! Really? Where was this? Did it rattle at you? Pretty amazing. I've obviously not heard of anyone seeing a rattler up that high in the Rubies.

    We haven't been back up to work on the trail yet this year. I've had other priorities, fortunately or unfortunately, and honestly I'm more interested in that ridge during ski season. The trail got really hard to find past that last cairn, as I'm sure you discovered. It kind of branched off to the right in two different places, both of which were somewhat marked but neither of which agreed with the USFS GPS record I had. I figured it might be a bit easier to try it from the Talbot Canyon side, see where that got me. I know the trail is good when it leaves the Talbot Canyon trail, but who knows how long it stays good after that.

    Thanks for the reminder of something I should start looking at again... ;)

  4. The rattler (which did indeed rattle at me, otherwise I'd probably have not noticed it since it wasn't directly in my path) was near the Talbot-Lamoille Trail route on your map here, on the Lamoille side of the crest. I was a bit right of the actual route shown since I wanted some views from the edge of the cliffs, but I wasn't actually on the cliff edge when I ran into it.

    I didn't actually try the whole trail, as my main goal was just to get to the ridge top (the peak marked 9992'). I had actually hoped to travel east along the ridge to the next higher peak, but the growing clouds scared me away.