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.
The Old Trail Museum offers special tours of stretches of the Old North Trail each summer. Led by Old Trail Museum Board members and former Glacier National Park backcountry rangers David and Vivi 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.
The tour dates for 2023 will be July 8th for the southern tour and July 22nd for the northern tour. Each tour begins at the end of the pavement on the Teton Canyon Road, 18.2 miles west of US Highway 89. Each tour will be a 6-7 hour driving/walking educational adventure. Short walks are optional if anyone is physically limited to remain in a vehicle. Lunch will not be provided, so please plan accordingly. Participants will need to provide their own transportation and carpooling will be encouraged. The tours will meet at 7:30 AM at the Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana and depart at 8:00 AM. Each tour will be limited to 20 participants, ages 12 and older only, no pets will be allowed.
The southern tour on July 8th will explore Big Bear’s cabin, adjacent Old Trail and markers, Metís cemetery and history sign, buffalo drive cairn lanes, tepee rings, “the Pothole” archaeological site, buffalo jumps, eagle trap, Pine Butte and Old Trail segments.
The northern tour will be on July 22nd, as the group will travel towards Antelope Butte and its cairns, passing the “The Big Ring”, tepee rings, vision quest sites, an eagle trap, Antelope Lake, as well as several sections of the Old Trail.
Seats will fill up quickly. Suggested donation per slot on the tour is $25, but any and all donations are welcome. All proceeds from the tours go directly to the Old Trail Museum for its continued operation. If interested in joining us, please email OldTrail2@gmail.com with the subject OLD TRAIL TOURS.