Friday, August 05, 2016

Milwaukee Road in Montana

The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific was often referred to as The Milwaukee Road. Between 1906 and 1908 part of the line was built above Butte, Montana. In 1980 the Pacific Extension of the road (Montana, Idaho and Washington) was shut down. Now 4.5 miles of the rail bed are part of Rails-to-Trails within Thompson Park. Thursday we took a great hike along that trail.

But first, Thompson Park needs an introduction. In 1915 William Boyce Thompson, a mining engineer, financier and self-made millionaire gave 75 acres of placer mining claims to the city of Butte for the development of a park. The donated lands were combined in 1922 with the federal lands on the Deerlodge National Forest by an act of Congress. It is the only congressionally designated Municipal Recreation Area in the national forest system.  The Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior, AZ, was established in 1922 by the same man.

First we walked on the Lion's Den trail to reach the old rail bed.

It was well maintained and clear of fallen logs except in one place. Do you think somebody thought no one would see this tree across the trail?

When we reached the old rail line, the trail was wide and easy to walk on. We could see evidence of the phone lines that ran along the tracks.

There are two tunnels on the trail, one 550 ft long, the other 1110 ft. The app TrailLink that describes rails-to-trails recommended that bikers wear a head lamp or carry a flashlight to go through the tunnels. As we entered the longer tunnel we could see the light at the other end but the tunnel was long enough we needed the flashlights on our phones to see the trail surface right in front of us.

The first part of the tunnel was lined with concrete and painted white. Further in the walls were just the hollowed out mountain rock.

The view out the far end of the tunnel was pretty.

We will be back in Butte over the Labor Day weekend and we intend to hike some of the other trails in Thompson Park.


  1. Interesting hike...especially through the tunnel.

  2. I wonder if that's the same guy who donated the land for Boyce Thompson arboretum.