Milwaukee Road Rail-Trail (Thompson Park)


3 Reviews

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Milwaukee Road Rail-Trail (Thompson Park) Facts

States: Montana
Counties: Silver Bow
Length: 4.3 miles
Trail end points: Janney Rd. (Butte) and Pipestone Pass, MT-2 (Butte)
Trail surfaces: Gravel
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 7984925

Milwaukee Road Rail-Trail (Thompson Park) Description


Just a few miles south of Butte, the Milwaukee Road Rail Trail through Thompson Park offers a fun journey for 4.3 miles through two tunnels and across a trestle on the former Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad. 

With a gravel surface, it is best suited for mountain bikes. The trail can also be used for hiking and horseback riding. Additionally, during the winter, the trail is groomed for snowshoeing, fat-tire biking, and cross-country skiing.

About the Route

This section of the railroad was one of the first in the country to be electrified; Thomas Edison even came out to Butte to ride the Milwaukee Road. These past relics are one of the highlights of the trail. One of the tunnels is 550 feet long, while the other is 1,110 feet. Bring your headlamp and taillights for the adventure!

The trestle bridge along the route is a stunner, too, at 600 feet long and rising 130 feet above the valley floor. The trail ends just 100 yards from the 2,300-foot-long Pipestone Pass tunnel, which is closed to the public, but you can walk up to its entrance.

While the trail itself is short, the park offers a network of more than 25 miles of non-motorized trails for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. At the Pipestone Pass Trailhead on the rail trail's southern end, the Milwaukee Road Rail Trail connects with the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, which spans a whopping 3,100 miles across the country from Canada to Mexico. 


The Milwaukee Road Rail Trail (Thompson Park) is part of the Great American Rail Trail, a 3,700-mile route from Washington to Washington D.C. 

Parking and Trail Access

The Milwaukee Road Rail Trail runs between Janney Rd. (Butte) and Pipestone Pass, MT-2 (Butte), with parking at the southern end.

Parking is also available at:

  • Kirby Day Use Area along MT-2 (Butte)
  • Lion's Den Trailhead along MT-2 (Butte)

These are approximate addresses, please see TrailLink Map for detailed directions.

Milwaukee Road Rail-Trail (Thompson Park) Reviews

How to Access the Pipestone Terminus of the Milwaukee Road R2T

Take Rt. 2 to Pipestone Pass. Around MP 75.5 (about 1/4 mile north of the Pipestone Pass parking area on Rt. 2), look for a locked gate that says "Closed to Traffic". Go around the gate and DOWN the path for about 300 yards (you will probably have to walk this). You will see an informational kiosk next to the abandoned RR tunnel. The R2T starts here.

Fun trail!

This is such a fun trail! The trestle is HUGE the tunnels are LONG and cold even on a hot day. Definitely bring a light for the tunnels. We didn't the first time we did this and just pointed the bikes in the direction of the light at the end of the tunnel (probably not the smartest thing, but it was fine). Even in July we've encountered thick ice in the tunnels. Getting from the parking lot down to the trail is steep, but the rest of the trail has a very gentle grade.

Ridin' The GART

This trail is a segment of the Great American Rail-Trail (GART).
Location: Butte, MT
Parking: Eagles Nest parking area…should have parked at Sagebrush Flats for a little closer to trail. Recreation area was before Continental Divide.
Trail Condition: Mt Bike trail for sure. Nice surface for fatter tires. A couple short sections with larger gravel chunks. Inside tunnels was a little rougher surface…need light.
Signage: A number of nice interpretative signs explaining the railroad and history of this portion.
Comments: Liked this trail and history signage. Encountered several other trail users. Nice easy grade both directions. Would do this trail again.

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