Old North Trail Tours

The Old North Trail was a trans-continental trail running north and south along the east side of the Rocky Mountains between Mexico and Alaska. Used by Native Americans for millennia for trading, hunting, war and seasonal migration, the Old North Trail was lost in most places in North America with American and Canadian westward colonization, quickly followed by industrial and agricultural development along much of the path of the Old North Trail.

However, on Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front, much of the Old North Trail still exists in an undisturbed state for long stretches. Here along the Front, you can still walk along the same path the Blackfeet, Metís and other indigenous peoples used. You can see the travois ruts etched into the earth over centuries of usage as you follow the rock cairns placed by Native Americans to mark the way. Along the tours of the trail, you will pass by tepee rings, buffalo jumps, eagle traps, as well as a Metís cemetery and cabin, all right at the very foot of the rugged Sawtooth Range on the Rocky Mountain Front. As most of the land along these tours are not public lands, the tours are a unique and exclusive opportunity to experience the well-preserved indigenous historical sites.

Cairn marking a buffalo jump near the Old North Trail

The Old Trail Museum offers special tours of stretches of the Old North Trail each summer. Led by Old Trail Museum Board member and former Glacier National Park backcountry ranger Dave Shea, these tours cover several miles of the Old North Trail along the Rocky Mountain Front, discussing the trail, sites passed along the trail, as well as local geology, flora and fauna.

Dave Shea interpreting the site of an eagle trap.

The Old Trail Museum offers two different versions of the Old North Trail Tour. The northern version of the tour is more or less “Blackfeet-centric”, visiting tipi rings, buffalo jumps, eagle traps and a turtle effigy. The southern tour is more or less “Métis-centric”, visiting a Métis cemetery, Big Bear’s cabin, the site of a former Métis settlement in the canyon of the south fork of the Teton River. While these two tours differ in theme, there is certainly overlap on subject matter.

The Old North Trail 2024 tour dates are as follows:

July 6th – Northern tour

July 13th – Southern tour

July 20th – Northern tour

July 27th – Southern tour

All Old North Trail tours will meet at 8:30am on Saturday mornings in July. Food, water and transportation are required, as the museum does not provide lunch or transportation. Carpooling is encouraged among tour guests. Please, no children under 12 and no pets (as requested by private property owners). Guests are limited to one tour version per calendar year, as to accommodate as many individuals as possible. If you would like to sign up for a tour, or have any questions concerning the tours, please feel free to contact museum director Sean Doyle at (406) 466-5332 or email at oldtrail2@gmail.com.