Leadore, ID to West Yellowstone – My Favorite Section Yet & the Final Stretch of Montanaho

Day 38

We meant to get an early start but unsurprisingly didn’t get back on trail until noon. We ran into True Grits for the first time since the Bob and of course had to catch up with him. Right before leaving town I usually get really food crazy and feel like I need to eat everything because it’s my last chance. So we got second breakfast – gas station breakfast burrito, iced coffee and Gatorade before heading back to trail.

Sage brush created a green velvet blanket covering the hillsides as far as the eye could see. It’s sunny, windy, and hiking is on exposed ridges. In my opinion, hiking conditions really don’t get better than that. Even with a 10 mile climb out of town, I felt cheerful. The smoke from the fire is still filling the sky.

A beautiful sunset softened the blow of our end of the day steep climbs. We walked until after sunset, finally just dropping our stuff in the dark and cowboy camping at a flat spot on the ridge. We could see lightening in the very far northeast sky and the glow of the distant fire to our west. I woke up in the middle of the night and saw a shooting star! I like to interpret seeing a shooting star as a sign I am right where I’m supposed to be.

Day 39

We stopped for lunch just as the sky transformed to grey and thunder echoed through the air, but luckily the clouds passed quickly, only releasing a short burst of rain.

Lunch break

After lunch, we had an afternoon of route finding adventure! The well worn trail often just completely disappeared or simply wasn’t there at all to begin with, leaving us to find our own way. Sometimes there was a cairn to help lead us but mostly I just had to keep checking my map app to make sure I was headed in the right direction. The terrain and state of the trail slowed us down so we didn’t make it as far as we hoped today but that’s ok. Our camp spot was peaceful, on the side of a hill overlooking the rolling hills surrounding us under a twilight sky.

Day 40

I’ve decided this is my favorite stretch so far! Today we continued our hike through smooth rolling greens hills. This is what I pictured Montana/Idaho Looking like. I’m in complete bliss in my own version of hiking heaven. I love the exposed trail giving way to views in every direction. I love getting to see where the trail will lead me. When I’m hiking in the trees, I can’t see the big picture, but when I’m hiking on exposed trails, I get to see how the trail zig zags up the mountain and over the pass. It’s buggy, hot, and the terrain is strenuous and demanding, but the views make up for all of it. It turned overcast in the afternoon which was welcomed on this hot day. Usually we camp alone, but tonight we share a camp site with True Grits and Garbanzo.

Day 41

After lunch under a tree, we started our hike up back on to the ridge. These next several miles were some of the most challenging and exhausting. Like a rollercoaster, we hiked up and down every steep hump in the ridge line. I filled my camera roll with the views from this section. I hiked in awe of my breathtaking views. It’s such a strange feeling trying to describe how much I love this hike while it is simultaneously so grueling.

Very accurate a fly was captured in this image

We dropped down off the ridge and ate a late dinner at 9pm. We watched the sunset behind us and the moon rise in front of us. We finished up our hike with a couple miles down a dirt road. I felt like I was walking on cloud nine. I can’t believe this is where I am right now. Out of all the places I could be, I am here. We picked a flat spot beside the road and cowboyed under a clear sky. The moon was so bright it cast a shadow. We saw an elk on the nearest ridge at our feet and we heard coyotes howling back and forth from one ridge to another. I love how after even after a really tough day today, we are thrilled to be here doing this. I love this trail.

Moon beams over hillside

Day 42

We woke up early today to make it to the shuttle spot at 9am. ITS TOWN DAY and I need all the food. It was refreshing walking into the early morning golden sun. We got to our shuttle spot along with 6 other hikers. The driver had to make 2 trips but we made it to the diner for breakfast and that’s all that matters! Lima, MT doesn’t have a lot to offer, good thing hikers are easily satisfied 🙂 we are content with gas station food for supper and a cheap motel.

Day 44

It’s been so hot lately so we were surprised to experience a full day of chilly temps and periodic rain. I heard strange animal noises and branches breaking in the tree line across the meadow. I stopped and watched 3 moose chase each other through the woods. Super cool!

We stopped at the last water source for the next 12 miles to eat dinner. We shared our tyvek fort with Loofah so we could eat dinner without being rained on. We decided to set up camp there, setting us up for a big day to town tomorrow.

Day 45

Woke up early and it was heavily raining so we decided to sleep in until it stopped raining…. at 2 pm it stopped raining. Alrighty, night hiking it is! It’s chilly today but we enjoy some sun for a few miles until we climb up and INTO the low hanging clouds.

Headed into the clouds

It was eery, cold, windy and visibility was poor within the clouds. Even after dropping in elevation we never saw the sun again. It started getting colder and eventually started raining again. Based on the weather we’ve experienced so far on trail, it doesn’t typically rain for long, so we thought could avoid hiking in the rain that day by hiking through the night. Boy, were we wrong!

We bushwhacked through soaked bushes taller than us and forded creeks up to our knees all while it steadily rained on us in the dark and temps fell. We hiked until 2 am hastily throwing up the tent at the first semi-flat spot we could find because we were so cold and so wet. Is it August because I can’t tell??? Back to back cold and rainy days are rough. Our clothes, tent, quilt, everything important is wet. Sad and cold night.

Day 46


What. In. The. World.

We were going to save money and camp in town, but with wet gear, we have to get a hotel so our stuff (and our soggy selves) have a chance to dry out. Unfortunately for us, hitch hiking is illegal in Idaho which makes for a tough hitch. Fortunately for us, we got in touch with a trail angel and he gave us a ride to town.

In challenging times, I focus on the idea that discomfort is temporary. The sun will come out again. The hitches won’t always be impossible. The temperature will feel comfortable again. My gear will be dry and warm again. I know I can get through this.

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Comments 1

  • David Odell : Aug 5th

    Excellent post. Enjoy your enthusiasm. I remember that section from my 1977 CDT hike.
    David Odell. AT71 PCT72 CDT77


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