Author Topic: The Thompson River Backcountry Drive - NT Alternative  (Read 358 times)

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Offline circlespinner

The Thompson River Backcountry Drive - NT Alternative
« on: October 18, 2021, 03:45:11 pm »
I'm planning to ride from Minneapolis to Seattle this coming Spring,  using mostly the NT route.  However, west of Glacier National Park I'm considering a more southernly route that eventually uses the Iron Horse/ Palouse to Cascades Trails.  The detour south makes use of the Thompson River Backcountry Drive, a 43-mile remote, secluded gravel road in Northwest Montana, running between Thompson Falls, MT, and US Highway 2, near Happy's Inn and the Thompson Lakes.

According to  this link (https://www.bigskyfishing.com/scenic-drives/thompson-river.php ) under normal conditions the road is excellent condition and good enough for 2-wheel drive cars,  which I figure is good enough for my Surly Long Haul Trucker.

Has anyone cycled that section of road?

I'm still leery about veering this far from the NT for a sizable portion of the trip,  but I do like the idea of using the off-road trails,  particularly west of the Columbia River.  With luck the Beverly Rail Bridge crossing will be open by the time I make the trip.

Here's a link the the 642-mile route plan between GNP and Seattle.  I'm curious to hear from anyone who has ridden in these areas and has feedback to offer.

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/37811405?privacy_code=Xoh5yMSdbBoGr708

Thank you,

Offline jwrushman

Re: The Thompson River Backcountry Drive - NT Alternative
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2021, 03:58:15 pm »
I cannot comment on the route you're considering.  In my opinion, the entire Northern Tier from Glacier to Newhalem was amazing!  I had never been to that part of Washington State (and Montana and Idaho) and was awed by the beauty of the region.   Have you been to this area before?

Offline Iowagriz

Re: The Thompson River Backcountry Drive - NT Alternative
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2021, 04:48:47 pm »
The Thompson River road is unpaved and with proper tires, your LHT will have no problem with it. I would avoid that road on a holiday, Friday night and Sunday. It is a popular camping and motorcycle area, traffic will be high if the camping season is in the prime.  You will notice several areas in which there are two roads on opposite sides of the river. Take the worse of the two and your traffic will be less.  Lastly, be aware of any logging in the area. If you see 1 log truck, expect to see more.  It is a scenic route.  I used to camp along there with my parents.

Side note - MM213.6 on your route is Prichard.  The Prichard Tavern has great food and is a good spot to lay around for a few hours. They might have camping available if needed (nothing fancy, think backyard or KOA style with other campers)

Offline circlespinner

Re: The Thompson River Backcountry Drive - NT Alternative
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2021, 06:04:24 pm »
@jwrushman,

I drove from Seattle to Denver with my son on a vacation back in 2004,  and was in Montana for a return to Yellowstone in 2011.  Those were my only visits to the area.

It's tough to choose between multiple routes with "can't miss this". Maybe I'll have an opportunity to pass that way again someday.

-Bob

Offline circlespinner

Re: The Thompson River Backcountry Drive - NT Alternative
« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2021, 06:08:10 pm »
@iowagriz,

Thanks for the great intel.  I was doubtful anyone was even going to have heard of this road.

-Bob

Offline jamawani

Re: The Thompson River Backcountry Drive - NT Alternative
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2021, 07:16:39 pm »
Lots of people have heard ot Thompson River Road.
(Actually there are two - - the forest road and the logging trunk road.)

Lolo National Forest floated the idea of paving the forest road about 15 years ago.
There was a huge outcry against doing so by many traditional users and environmentalists.
The forest service rationale was the dust and runoff from heavy use.

Little used forest roads can be magical.
Heavily used forest roads can be pretty tough slogging.
I chose not to ride it many years ago (and I ride lots of unpaved roads)
because it was so dusty and heavily washboarded. (only did a mile or so)
Forest road surfaces can vary greatly from year to year and even within a season.

Unless you have a fat tire bike, I wouldn't try it early, soon after snowmelt.

Because of the massive Northern Pacific Railway federal land grant - 47 million acres -
there is a checkerboard of private landholdings all over western Montana.
From Northern Pacific to Plum Creek Timber to Weyerhauser now.
Plum Creek moved increasinly into land development.
So the Thompson River corridor is hardly wilderness.
Given the logging and recreation traffic,
I thought it made sense to pave Thompson River Road.
Of course, paving just leads to even more traffic, I know.

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2002/12/09/02-30978/environmental-impact-statement-sanders-and-flathead-counties-mt