Montana Outdoors

April 1, 2013

An April visit to Thompson Pass

Filed under: Spring — Tags: , , , — montucky @ 11:09 pm

Off and on for several months I have been working pretty hard on a project. Last week I finished it and the reward I gave myself was a trip to Thompson Pass today. Thought I’d post a few photos.

A minor but beautiful little highway called 471 winds around and up for 24 miles from Thompson Falls Montana west to the Montana – Idaho border where it turns into Idaho Highway 9 and thirty or so miles later meets the concrete and asphalt disaster known as Interstate 90. It is closed during the winter because of heavy snow and not enough traffic to justify trying to plow it all winter and usually in April gets plowed out and opened again as it did last week.

Road to Thompson Pass

Start of the snow level at about 3600 feet.

At the Pass there is a large parking lot and a favorite trail head that leads to Blossom Lake, Upper Blossom Lake and Pear Lake, all along USFS trail 404. I have left a lot of tracks on that trail. There is also a USFS road that leads from there a mile up the Idaho side to the trail head for Lake Revett. I hiked that road today on snowshoes, which, by the way uses a lot more calories than simply hiking on a dirt or rock trail.

Near Thompson Pass

This road didn’t get plowed

Thompson Pass

The parking lot at the Pass

Thompson Pass

Thompson Pass

Entering the Idaho Panhandle National Forest

Blossom Lake trail head

The start of the Blossom Lake trail. The sign means what it says.

From Thompson Pass

Peeking over the edge into Idaho.

The hike itself was very pleasant but not as scenic as I would have liked:  I’ll post a few more photos later.


  1. Great post! I’ve often wondered what it was like on Thompson Pass when the snow is still on the ground. I’d love to ski up there in the spring.


    Comment by aarontheisen — April 1, 2013 @ 11:14 pm

    • Thanks Aaron. There is usually a lot more snow there than there is this year, and usually the road doesn’t get opened until around the end of april.

      I did hike the road to the Revett Lake trail head and, because it’s shaded, there is more snow there. About 6 feet deep on the road with a fairly hard crust on it (soft where the sun hits it for awhile). Pretty good for snow shoes, and I’d think a little too hard for skis, but I’m not a cross-country skier. It looked like there was a good amount of snow on the Blossom Lake trail but I didn’t hike it at all. It had not had any activity.


      Comment by montucky — April 1, 2013 @ 11:22 pm

  2. I can see why it is closed to vehicles! 😉


    Comment by bentehaarstad — April 2, 2013 @ 3:57 am

    • I knew where that trail is, but even so had a little difficulty finding it.


      Comment by montucky — April 2, 2013 @ 7:54 am

  3. I’m exhausted just thinking about hiking through that much snow!


    Comment by New Hampshire Garden Solutions — April 2, 2013 @ 4:28 am

    • I suppose it’s because I’m getting old that snowshoes seem to use more energy now. Still very enjoyable though and provide a lot of freedom to travel through the winter forest.


      Comment by montucky — April 2, 2013 @ 7:56 am

  4. That is way too much snow for me this early in the morning! Pretty in its way though!


    Comment by roberta — April 2, 2013 @ 5:51 am

    • Up there, the more the better! That snow is very dense and will keep several streams flowing all summer. I love it when you can walk on top of it instead of having to plow through.


      Comment by montucky — April 2, 2013 @ 7:59 am

  5. Tons of snow! It’s beautiful up there, Terry…and what a nice reward for you after completing your project. 🙂


    Comment by seekraz — April 2, 2013 @ 6:47 am

    • I know that is a reward you would also like, Scott. There is a different perspective on life from places like that.


      Comment by montucky — April 2, 2013 @ 8:06 am

      • It certainly is…sign me up! And I do love that perspective from up there…so settling…calming…restoring…..


        Comment by seekraz — April 3, 2013 @ 6:58 am

  6. That’s more snow in one winter than we get in 2 decades! =0 Very beautiful country & beautiful blue skies =)


    Comment by Tricia — April 2, 2013 @ 8:08 am

    • It’s quite a lot, but that is at a low elevation. There is much more a few thousand feet higher. Where is stays shaded by the trees, snow and ice will remain there until into August. It part of the miracle of our western watershed!


      Comment by montucky — April 2, 2013 @ 8:17 am

  7. You sure gave us a good idea how deep the snow was up there. No wonder they close the road if it isn’t high traffic there. The snow removal costs would be enormous. I bet the air was very fresh and clean up there.


    Comment by wordsfromanneli — April 2, 2013 @ 8:16 am

    • Yes, the air is very pure up there. And cold! When I got out of the Jeep there was a stiff wind blowing across the pass and a jacket sure felt good!

      It’s also good to have that road closed during the winter because that is some of the last remaining good habitat for Lynx in the lower 48 states and with the road closed nothing bothers them. I was also very pleased to see no sign of snowmobile tracks in the area. I did see two sets of lynx tracks about a mile above the pass.


      Comment by montucky — April 2, 2013 @ 8:21 am

  8. Absolutely gorgeous. We had rain here last night, and that polished off most of the rest of our snow. I have a few patches here and there in my yard, but almost none in the woods. I suspect there is still plenty in the White Mountains though.


    Comment by jomegat — April 2, 2013 @ 8:18 am

    • Our snow at the valley level is all gone too. Even on the road to the pass the ground was mostly bare until about the 3600 foot level. The higher elevations here are still going through the daily freeze/melt cycles, which will preserve the water in that snow until late summer.


      Comment by montucky — April 2, 2013 @ 8:25 am

  9. Looks like you gave yourself a pretty awesome reward. The pictures are wonderful. We visited daughter and son-in-law over Easter in their mountainy state (nothing like yours though). We visited a state park near them and the road to the overlook was still closed as it is in winter. But there wasn’t half as much snow there as you showed us in your photos!


    Comment by Mama's Empty Nest — April 2, 2013 @ 10:54 am

    • The precipitation pattern here has been very unusual this winter. Parts of eastern Montana are in a very bad drought condition. A hundred miles south of us has had slightly more snow than usual and a hundred miles north west has had only about half of normal. Kind of like the guy who is standing with one foot in ice water and one foot in boiling water; on the average he’s comfortable.


      Comment by montucky — April 2, 2013 @ 10:06 pm

      • I loved your analogy – ‘one foot in ice water, one in boiling water – on the average he’s comfortable’! I feel like that’s how spring has been here — one foot still in winter but one foot trying to step into spring. 😉


        Comment by Mama's Empty Nest — April 3, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

  10. What gorgeous country. Love that road in the first photo. I’m reminded of my drive through the San Juan Mountains of northern New Mexico a couple of winters ago. Love the mountains in winter . We still have quite a bit of snow in Minn. Spring is soooo slow in arriving with any surety.


    Comment by Teresa Evangeline — April 2, 2013 @ 3:37 pm

    • You have had more of a winter this year than we have. It has been unusual in most of western Montana because the high country has gotten roughly normal amounts of snow but the low valleys have been extremely dry. I kept hoping for a good old fashioned blizzard but one never came. Oh well, I’ll use the drier weather to get my summer chores done early so I can spend more time on the trails later.


      Comment by montucky — April 2, 2013 @ 10:16 pm

  11. Beautiful scenery and a wonderful vista. You sure visit some interesting places! Just terrific!


    Comment by WildBill — April 3, 2013 @ 5:06 am

    • This pass is only about 40 miles from my house. I visit there often because the trail head for one of my favorite places is there. It was an extra treat to be there in winter though.


      Comment by montucky — April 3, 2013 @ 8:43 pm

  12. looks really pretty. cannot imagine all that snow in April!


    Comment by skouba — April 3, 2013 @ 6:55 am

    • You wouldn’t have believed how cold the wind felt as it swept over the snow at the pass either. Probably 70 degrees colder than what you’re used to, Stacey!


      Comment by montucky — April 3, 2013 @ 8:45 pm

  13. After seeing these I don’t have the right at all to complain about my late spring Terry lol !! Great work !!


    Comment by Bernie Kasper — April 3, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

    • Spring comes late in these mountains, Bernie, and winter comes early. I’m amazed at how the plants can squeeze so much of their life cycle into such a short time.


      Comment by montucky — April 3, 2013 @ 8:47 pm

  14. I put on cross country skis the other day and had such a great time in Colorado. I think it and snow shoeing are now my winter sports rather than the cumbersome gear of downhill.


    Comment by Tammy — April 4, 2013 @ 7:29 am

    • I have not skied downhill for several years now. I prefer the solitude of snowshoes.


      Comment by montucky — April 5, 2013 @ 9:04 pm

  15. Sometimes it’s hard to remember the different kinds of snow, but the second photo with the Jeep reminded me of that kind of late-season snow that’s already done a little melting and compacting – it almost “slices” when you put a shovel through it. I remember the “crusts”, too – only an inch or a few thick, but easy to break. Sometimes we’d take pieces of crust and carve shapes out of them. Such fun – and isn’t snow pretty against a blue sky!


    Comment by shoreacres — April 4, 2013 @ 8:34 pm

    • The snow at the pass elevations now has gone through many thaw/freeze cycles this spring. The top crust makes if nice for snowshoes but nasty to try to walk on without them. It’s good that by this time of year the snowpack has become so packed and dense. It will release its water slowly now.


      Comment by montucky — April 5, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

  16. How cool that there is lynx up there. I’d love to see one. Your exposure of the snow is just perfect, looks like I remember it. I guess you didn’t have a hard time finding a parking spot.


    Comment by Candace — April 4, 2013 @ 9:20 pm

    • I’d love to see a lynx too. They are rare these days. We still have an old garage behind the house and I remember when I was a kid my uncle who lived here then went into the garage one morning and found a lynx lying in the garage (having entered through an open window on the uphill side) on the floor under a deer that had been hung in the rafters to cure.


      Comment by montucky — April 5, 2013 @ 9:10 pm

  17. Wow, what views You offered to us. They are really great. To me it was interesting to see also Your, in which You travel there. Thank You.


    Comment by Sartenada — April 4, 2013 @ 11:48 pm

    • I wish I could get to that elevation or higher more often during the winter. It is beautiful up there.That old Jeep is a veteran of thousands of miles through the Montana back country. I could never give it up!


      Comment by montucky — April 5, 2013 @ 9:12 pm

      • Thank You; I do understand it very well. Your car is great. Here were we moved at the end of last November, we noticed very soon that really need 4 * 4 cars and it is due to that we changed week ago our Opel Vectra OPC, “sob”, to a four wheel drive BMW touring. It is Bi turbo with eight-speed automatic transmission Steptronic. Next year we test it in Germany. My wife has yet 10 years old Opel Vectra and it has passed 96934mi. It has been very reliable.


        Comment by Sartenada — April 7, 2013 @ 12:42 am

        • We sure do get to love a car that has served us well for many years! I hope you have such good luck with your new BMW!!


          Comment by montucky — April 7, 2013 @ 10:00 pm

  18. What a beautiful place, I envy you very much, thanks for sharing such lovely pictures 🙂


    Comment by Mike Howe — April 5, 2013 @ 6:04 am

    • Thanks for visiting, Mike! I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. I plan on visiting many places this coming summer that I have not visited before. Just waiting for some of the snow and ice to clear off the trails.


      Comment by montucky — April 5, 2013 @ 9:14 pm

      • I look forward to seeing the pictorial outcome of your travels 🙂


        Comment by Mike Howe — April 6, 2013 @ 2:45 am

        • Thanks Mike! I’m anxious to be able to hike into the high country again!


          Comment by montucky — April 6, 2013 @ 10:34 pm

  19. Plenty of snow, that’s for sure; and maybe the last time for snow shoes this year.


    Comment by knightofswords — April 5, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

    • I would like to get in one more snowshoe trip before summer, to the Big Hole lookout while there is still lots of snow there. I tried that road yesterday but was stopped by drifts on the road about two miles short of the trail head. Maybe in two more weeks. Then I will see if I’m up to 5 miles on the shoes.


      Comment by montucky — April 5, 2013 @ 9:16 pm

  20. It was great to see photos of that much snow. Haven;t been up to my neck in snow since my sojourns to the upper Peninsula in Michigan.


    Comment by Bo Mackison (@bo_mackison) — April 6, 2013 @ 3:12 pm

    • We have lots of snow still above about 6000 feet but it’s spring in the valleys.


      Comment by montucky — April 6, 2013 @ 10:35 pm

  21. Spring warm was here today and flowers were everywhere.
    I hope it stays!
    Snow is beautiful, but its too cold for me.


    Comment by Mary Strong-Spaid — April 6, 2013 @ 7:50 pm

    • The lower elevation wildflowers are starting to bloom here now. I see another species in bloom every several days. And we are getting into a rainy period which will be great for them!


      Comment by montucky — April 6, 2013 @ 10:37 pm

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