Welcome to the Gibbons Pass Montana Picture Tour
Missoulian editor Arthur Stone wrote the following about Gibbons Pass in 1911, “There is more history connected with every foot of this mountain path than with any other with which I am familiar.” Stone maintained. “It is one of the most remarkable trails in Montana.” Today, it can be argued there are other equally important historic trails in Montana but Gibbons Pass is certainly in the top ten.
How Did They Do it?
Riding up and over Gibbons Pass in a modern vehicle is a snap. The only dangers you face today making the drive is dropping your hot coffee in your lap. What is hard to imagine that prior to 1964, this was the only route to access the Big Hole Valley from the west. I just can’t picture a Model T Ford chugging up the rocky one-lane road. There is no water along the road to cool an overheated radiator. You had to be sure you had a full gas tank because the steep incline would starve an engine prior to the introduction of fuel pumps. Finally, the rocky road could almost guarantee a flat tire during the adventure. I read that prior to the 1930’s, a typical car tire would last only 300 to 400 miles on gravel road before it went flat and needed repair.
10 Men Pushing and Pulling
The first car to challenge the pass was driven by a Mr. Gibson and a Mr. Brooks in the summer of 1905. They each drove a little two-cylinder Maxwell. With about 10 men pushing and pulling, they reached the halfway tree, a big buckskin pine.
Chief Joseph Pass Winter Multi-Use Trail System
Times have changed in the Gibbon Pass-Chief Joseph Pass area. The Lost Trail Hot Springs began in 1892. Highway 93, the route north to Missoula, was begun in 1926. The Lost Trail Ski Area opened in 1938. Highway 43 also know as the Big Hole Battlefield Highway was officially opened in 1964. Every since 1989, the area that was once an obstacle is now a popular winter destination. Chief Joseph Pass offers 32 miles of trail, including 10 miles of trail set aside for cross-country skiers and other foot powered travel.
We included pictures of the Hogan Cabin, one of three rustic Forest Service cabins in the area that you can rent for a toasty warm over night shelter while skiing near Gibbons Pass.