Maud S. canyon is one of the most beautiful of the range. The stream fed by springs above comes with a roar over rocks and down timbers, and flows on over the valley. Wild roses flourish in tangled profusion and the rocks are hidden in some places by tall bushes of white syringa, whose blossoms perfume the air. —Anaconda Standard, 1906
Because of its sheer proximity to the city, the Maud S canyon trail is one of the most popular short day hikes in the Butte area. The small parking lot is usually full on summer weekends but people frequent the canyon throughout the year. Unfortunately, many inconsiderate dog-owners leave shit all over the trail, so watch your step.
Like pretty much everything else in Butte, the trail is named for a mine that once operated in the area. John D. Leslie of New York commissioned the mine in 1888 and local tradition suggests he named it Maud S after his daughter Maud. Historian Richard Gibson offers a different story:
A more likely origin for the name may be one of the most famous horses of the day, Maud S, “Queen of the Trotting Turf.” She was a Kentucky chestnut mare 15½ hands high, the world’s fastest trotter for more than a decade. Maud S set the record for the mile at 2 minutes, 10¾ seconds in 1880, a record that did not fall until 1891. She was owned by William Vanderbilt, son of railroad magnate Cornelius, who sold her to Robert Bonner in 1884 for $40,000. Anyone attuned to the racing world of the 1880s would have known of Maud S.
Whether or not the mine (and perhaps his daughter) were named after a race-horse, the trail is definitely worth a trip. You can do the quick loop or else a longer out-and-back along the CDT. The first time I hiked the trail, I attempted to reach Our Lady of the Rockies via the CDT but ultimately couldn’t find the connector trail, though I came within a quarter mile of that obscene colossus.
As always, be prepared for encounters with wildlife. Mountain lions have been spotted in the canyon so if you’re hiking alone, be sure to make plenty of noise.
0.0 miles: From the Saddle Creek Road parking lot, two trails ascend to the train tracks, to the right a straight shot along what appears to be a dirt road. To the left, gravel switchbacks.
0.5 miles: Trains tracks, followed by a fork in the trail 70 feet further. This is where the loop begins so it’s up to you which to take.
If you opt for the left, the Maud S Loop (Tr. No. 4816), the grade ascends moderately to views over the 90 freeway and Butte beyond. Taking the right , the eponymous Maud S Canyon trail (Tr. No. 4815), the trail ascends more gradually. The rest of this description assumes you took a right at the fork.
2.1 miles: You’ll arrive arrive at what appears to be a triangle intersection of trails. It’s all very well signposted. An extension was completed to the Continental Divide Trail in 2012. From this point, it’s another 1.5 miles. For the loop, follow signs to the vista. It’s just a short walk through a grove of birch trees.
2.25 miles: Great views of Butte and beyond.
3.52 miles: Loop trails intersect just before the train tracks.
Continue another half mile or so back to the parking lot.
Ⓐ Hiked by the author, July 3, 2015; March 18, 2016