Section 11: West Fork
Endpoints: West Fork/HWY 287 – Cinnamon Lodge/HWY 191
Length: 54 miles
Section 11 continues in a northeast direction on the Montana Trail. Leaving West Fork, users access the trail from the Papoose Trailhead (Trail 6355) climbing gently along Papoose Creek to intersect the Papoose Bench Trail (Trail 6385) heading north and crossing multiple drainages of Sun Creek. The Trail remains above the Sun Ranch until it reaches Moose Creek Trail (Trail 6332) where it turns east. Anticipate a steep climb along Moose Creek as it passes Finger Lakes to Midnight Pass at 10097ft. From Midnight Pass, the trail descends to the intersection with Wolf Creek Trail (Trail 202). Continue climbing up Wolf Creek Trail up to Expedition Pass (10207ft), the highest point on Section 11. There are various informal route options to side ridge from Midnight Pass to Expedition Pass without descending to the intersection mentioned above. Care should be taken to avoid the unstable scree field if choosing to side ridge on one of the faint trails heading that direction.
From Expedition Pass the trail descends via Sentinel Creek Trail (Trail 202) in a circuitous route to the south before dropping into Sentinel Creek below and then continually dropping 3500 feet to the trailhead at Potamogeton Park. From Poto Trailhead #1 users turn north and follow Lightening Lake Trail (Trail 200) north up to Lightning Lake intersection with Cabin Creek Divide Trail (Trail 206). Turn east as the Cabin Creek Trail climbs to intersect with Eldridge Trail (Trail 172). Note that the intersection is clearly marked; however, the first three miles of Eldridge Ridge Trail heading north is a confusing matrix of routes until passing Apex Point where the trail becomes well marked and begins descending to Eldridge Trailhead/Taylor Creek Road.
From Eldridge Trailhead follow Taylor Creek Road eastbound to intersect with the Albino Lake Trail (Trail 33) heading north. Shortly after crossing Taylor Fork Creek on the wooden stock bridge turn sharply east on to Marble Mountain Trail (Trail168). It’s a steep climb up to Marble Point at 8044 feet. After crossing through the gate on the trail it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the trail as it transitions to various off-road and cattle trails with some route finding required as you descend steeply to Cinnamon Trailhead. This is a gravel road to Cinnamon Lodge at intersection with US Highway 191/Gallatin Road.
Snow is usually plentiful in this area and users can expect to cross snow fields until mid-July at the higher elevations.
Water is plentiful along majority of this section. Eldridge Trail is the exception which may have water/snow melt until mid-July; after this it is dry trail until just before Eldridge Trailhead.
Cellphone service is very spotty. After departing West Fork cell signal is not available again until Eldridge Ridge. (Verizon). Cinnamon Lodge has a Verizon Cell booster behind lodge.
The majority of this section is in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness and the Taylor-Hilgard Wilderness unit. Wilderness hiking etiquette is required. Carrying bear spray is highly recommended and bear safety protocols are required when camping.