|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
A complete and detailed description of this segment of the Continental Divide Trail can be found in the book MONTANA AND IDAHO'S CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL by Lynna Howard. While not entirely current at this point, the book does accurately denote every aspect of this segment - along with a topo map and driving instructions. It can therefore be used as a good tool for trip planning.
The overall conditions of trails along this segment are excellent. Bridges span most every boggy area, and are almost in excess in some sections of the trail. Many small streams, though, were not bridged and had to be crossed using rocks and trees as leverage. And while there was little traffic throughout the area, hikers were encountered every day The access trail to Johnson Lake was probably the most well kept section observed throughout the trip. Bridges were present over any perpetually wet area. The high level of maintenance was likely due to the popularity of Johnson Lake for a quick overnight backpack. After all the small bridges on the trail to this point, it is somewhat surprising to not find a bridge over the lake's outlet, but instead a log that has been flatten out for easier walking. The lake itself has many campsites to choose from, but it is preferred to settle on one that has had little human influence. Deer and porcupine have become a problem at many of the campsites around the lake, therefore hanging food and packs is a necessity. A stock camp located approximately one quarter mile southwest of the lake offers wonderful views and a possible alternative to campers from the popular lake sites. Signs marking the CDT at the start of this segment are slightly flawed. One sign is properly labeled, the second indicates the CDT and Rainbow Pass to be in the direction of the lake, instead of continuing up trail. Throughout the day two different groups of five were observed. One group had been camping at the lake and was hiking out and one group was camping at the lake and fishing . Fish were active in Johnson Lake.
After Johnson Lake, the trail begins to climb to the summit of Rainbow Pass #1. Along the way, the trail passes through a burn that is approaching seven years old. The dead standing trees, therefore, are beginning to fall regularly and caution should be taken traveling through here during high wind periods. Arriving at the pass, it is found to have good signage at it's crest, but the pass is not properly labeled on most maps. The trail then descends across the Continental Divide and consequently into another ranger district. This distinction is only noticeable by a slight change in trail conditions. The trail itself is distinct and well used, but a trail crew had not been out to this point and there were a number of downed trees across the path that had to be negotiated around. The junction of CDT #9 with Trail #130 traveling down the West Fork Fishtrap Creek is easily distinguishable on the trail and signs are properly labeled, just getting very worn down. Three campers were found at
Heading down from Warren Lake the trail is again distinct, but contains downed trees intermittently. Two stream crossings are present and both can be navigated without a bridge. The second, West Fork LaMarche Creek, could have high water in the spring that could make crossing more difficult. A log is currently present over the stream and rocks could be used to jump across. A bridge is present immediately after the stream, spanning a wetlands area. The junction with Trail #126 is again distinct, but with very worn signs. One sign for Cutaway Pass had fallen and was leaning against a tree, pointing in the proper direction. Three tributaries are shown on the map traveling up the pass. The first appeared dry, with the next two flowing well and a good source of water before getting to Cutaway Pass. The pass was well labeled and had proper directional signs and CDT signs posted along the trail on both sides of the pass. A large group was encountered here being lead by a permitted outfitter, demonstrating another type of frequent users to the area.
Traveling down from Cutaway Pass, a larch tree forest is a unique experience for the next two miles. The crossing of East Fork Rock Creek is without a bridge, but again not difficult. The next junction with Trail #38 can be seen to be very confusing, especially if traveling east. The CDT trail makes a sharp 90 degree turn here, which isn't entirely apparent on the map. If one was not paying attention and kept traveling straight, they would be heading down the wrong drainage. Signage here is also incorrect. The CDT sign properly shows the direction to Cutaway Pass to the left, but indicates the trail to continue east down the East Ford Rock Creek instead of making the sharp turn south. Queener Basin is the next suitable camping area. There is a site immediately off the trail, just after a small tributary and before larger stream. After the large stream is a sign making Queener Basin. More sites are likely farther off the beaten path.
The CDT continues to climb up Rainbow Pass #2, the highest pass in the Wilderness. A small side hike is possible to Rainbow Mountain from the pass, .5 miles south. The trail descends steeply until reaching Flower Lake, just off trail. Many good campsites exist around the lake, but again local officials would like visitors to camp at the lesser used sites farther from the lake to reduce erosion. The junction with Page Creek Trail #39 is slightly hard to see, but not confusing. Traveling up to Goat Flats is an extremely steep trail with amazing rock work building the trail into the side of the hillside. Two trail runners were encountered near the top of the pass, heading from Storm Lake and out Page Creek Trail.
Goat Flats is a beautiful high alpine plateau. Nearing the top of the pass is the junction with Storm Lake Trail #41. While the signs are worn, they are in surprisingly good shape despite the harsh conditions that are no doubt experienced here. Continuing up the pass, hikers are asked to spread out and not follow a single trail so as to disperse the impact on the fragile alpine vegetation. The top of the pass offers breathtaking views, a look at Upper Seymour Lake and the small tarn above it, and a glimpse at the amazing trail winding down the rocky hillside.
The junction at Upper Seymour Lake is properly signed. Numerous camps are found immediately next to the trail and three to four campers were spotted throughout the evening. From the trail junction, a small undesignated trail continues around the north and east side of the lake with many lesser used campsites along the way. More campsites can be found along the south side of the lake, as well as a stock camp up the valley approximately one quarter of a mile.