The Morrison Jeep Trail, simply put: God’s Country!! This is a hidden gem that is the exact type of trail that we all long to find ourselves on. Most everyone I know that likes to get out and enjoy wheeling and nature are always looking for that off-the-grid spot that puts them far from the hustle and bustle of today’s busy lifestyle. Morrison Jeep Trail is exactly that place. It surrounds you in nature completely. You may bump into a person or two on your journey, either likeminded off roaders or the occasional fly fisherman.
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More of a scenic trail than it is technical. There is enough challenge to the trail to keep you entertained, there are even a few areas that might get your blood pumping as bit more as well. I wouldn’t recommend it to a beginner or a stock 4wd vehicle but a capably rig and driver can cover the trail with little potential for issues. I would not recommend the trail during the winter months, the snow would make for a whole different level of challenge. Pair that with the steep cliffs and sub-freezing temperatures and it has the potential to be deadly. The end of the trail comes out on the Beartooth Highway, its closed for a good part of winter.
Our trip began a long ways from Wyoming. Sean Jennings (@defconbrix) in Arizona, Matt Pilon and Adam Malone over in Washington and I’m heading out of San Diego. We all met in Phoenix to make the drive north to pick up Max Daines in Salt Lake City, Utah who would be filming this epic adventure for Optima Batteries. From there we continued North East to Cody, Wyoming. We arrived in Cody Thursday evening just after dark. We found a great place for dinner which ended up being right next door to the local watering hole. We got to have a few refreshments with the locals and got a really good vibe from this really cool historic town. I think it would be worth planning an additional day to check this place out closer on the next trip.
Friday morning, were off to the Morrison Jeep Trail trail head. As we get closer to the trail the scenery starts changing. Mountains, trees and rivers begin to take the place of the flat grasslands that make up so much of Wyoming. Once you make the last turn to the trailhead you make your way down the last paved road and the scenery takes your breath away. At this point you forget all about the 20+ hour drive it took to get there. You just look ahead at the trail and know you are in for an adventure of a lifetime.
The lower portion of the trail runs along the scenic Clarks Fork River for a while until you come to the base of the mountain where the ascent begins. Several stops along the way are mandatory, taking in the scenery and sounds of the mountain winds and river flow are something you can get just anywhere. At the base of the climb you can see the multiple switchbacks that lie ahead. You feel pretty small sitting at the bottom looking up, this is big country. As you start making your way up the mountain you move up in elevation very quickly, within just minutes you find yourself looking down and it feels like you’re miles above where you just were. The switchbacks begin to get tighter and tighter as the terrain gets steeper. This is the most challenging part of the trail. There is little room for error, this is a narrow trail with extremely tight switchbacks and little to no turnouts. We made it through the toughest part of the trail without major incident. We had a small mechanical issue that prevented one rig from utilizing the differential lockers but it was not enough to prevent us from staying the course. There were a few hang ups along the way, nothing major, just took a little finesse to maneuver the rigs thru the tighter switchbacks.
Once you make it up the steepest portion of the Morrison Jeep Trail be sure to stop and take a look back, the view from the top is incredible. The trail continues on for several miles across some grasslands and through the pines. You will find the air is different at the top, its above 10k/ft in elevation, the air is brisk and thin but it’s also clean. We made our way across the high ground and up into the heavily forested area where we would look to find a stop to camp for the night. We found an excellent cut away in the trees that had good shelter from the wind and provided good areas to hang our food out of reach of the “Griz”. Once you stop to set camp you find yourself taking a good look around and keep your ears wide open. This area is known for its healthy grizzly bear population, it is also known to be the place that the problem grizzlies are relocated from the neighboring Yellowstone National Park. There is a lot of sign of bears in the area. It just looks like bear country. There was a big part of me that really wanted to see a big boar griz in the wild but we were not that fortunate this time, guess that means we gotta go again!
Once camp was set we got the fire started and began to prep dinner. The temperature drops quickly as the sun sets, you can feel the ground freezing beneath you. The patches of snow around camp all begin to freeze solid. The temperatures were teetering near the single digits shortly after dark. The brisk clean air mixed with the smell of steaks on the grille makes you take deep breaths, taking it all in. Enjoying a juicy steak around a warm fire while swapping stories and looking back on the day is the perfect way to end a day.
We only spent one day on the trail this time, next chance we have we will plan a longer trip so we can take in more of what Montana has to offer. Leaving the trail takes you down the scenic Beartooth Highway in Southern Montana. This is the most scenic piece of blacktop I have ever had the pleasure to drive on. There are so many other really cool places to explore in that region, I cannot wait for the next opportunity make my way up and tackle the Morrison Jeep Trail again.