Quick Info: Nearest Town: Jefferson City (Wickes) Yearly Closure: None (only accessable in the summer)
Trail Rating: Class 2Length: 6145 feet (length of tunnel)
High-Clearance?: YesWide/Long Vehicles: No concerns
Trail Type: Loop (comes out on other side of the mountain)
Montana Central Railway - Boulder Tunnel (Tunnel #6):
Locally, it is known both as the "Boulder Tunnel" and "Wickes Tunnel". It has "BOULDER" at the top of both portals (ends) and records indicate the Montana Central Railways, which constructed it, called it the "Boulder Tunnel" and "Montana Tunnel Number 6". However, early maps (from 1900) designate it the "Wickes Tunnel". What to call it (Boulder or Wickes) still causes many arguments among the tunnel's fans.
Work on the tunnel began in March of 1887 and it "officially" opened on October 25, 1888. The tunnel was 6,115 feet long when originally completed. It was the longest train tunnel in Montana, at that time. Portals were added to the tunnel in 1893, extending the tunnel by 30 feet. There were construction & maintenance camps on both ends. The southern (Boulder) side camp was known as Amazon and the northern (Wickes) end was known as Portal.
Eleven men were killed during its construction, ten of which died in a dynamite explosion in September of 1888. Due to a cave-in in 1891, the tunnel's wooden lining was replaced with one of brick and granite. A six-foot-wide steel beam was also inserted into the ceiling. Doors at both ends of the tunnel were intended to stop ice build-up inside the tunnel.
The first train that went through the tunnel was on October 24, 1888. The last train through the tunnel was on January 9, 1972.
(Credits: Thanks to TwainsGeography(.com) and the Heritage Center, in Boulder for their great information on the tunnel.)
This is a Class 2 trail and is suitable for most high clearance or ATV/OHV vehicles. Keep in mind that the water can be about 3 feet deep, at times, on the Boulder side.
Note: The Boulder (Wickes) Tunnel is an interesting and popular historical landmark. As with everything to do with off-roading, if you choose to drive the tunnel, you do so at your own risk. This abandond railroad tunnel is 135+ years old. Time takes it toll on everything and this tunnel is no exception. Of particular note, there is errosive damage to the last 15 feet of the tunnel at the southern (Boulder side) portal. Caution is reccomended.
Exiting on the Wickes Side (Photo by Joe Skaggs)
South (Boulder) side of Tunnel: 46.321001, -112.107789 46°19'47"N - 112°6'48"W
Click **HERE** for a link to Google Maps pin of this spot
From Boulder, take the Boulder Frontage Road heading north. This road starts across from the Town Pump in Boulder. Go north on the frontage road. After approximately 2.5 miles the road forks. Take the left fork going under the Interstate. You are now on Amazon Road. Follow Amazon Road for approximately 3 miles. When you get to the sign that says the road is not maintained, there is a road which goes to the left (just after some construction stuff). Take the left and then an immediate right. You should be looking at the southern entrance to the Boulder Tunnel.
South Portal access
Regretfully, someone stole our friend and his dog. (Photo by Richard Hiltz)
North (Wickes) side of tunnel: 46.336621, -112.117514 46°20'11.8"N 112°07'03.1"W
Between Boulder and Helena on Interstate 15, take the Jefferson City exit #176. Turn west to Jefferson City. At the stop sign in Jefferson City, turn left. Take the 2nd right at the intersection of Jefferson Road and Corbin Road. Follow Corbin Road west. You will come to a fork in the road at the town of Corbin (just some houses now). Bear to the left at that fork. The road becomes Wickes Road. Follow this until you come to a grouping of houses. When you get to Wickes, what looks like the main road will turn to the right and start up a hill but that is NOT where we are going. Go left off the main road between some older buildings and houses and past them into a small valley. As you pass these older buildings you will see a newer home on the hill to your left. The Forest Service road goes through the center of the valley and sometimes there is a fence/gate there. This is private property on both side on the road so don’t stop and throw a party. :) The road will rise slightly out of this small valley and you should then see a small pond and the north entrance to the tunnel, just to the left.
Turn left @ Wickes
NOTE: The tunnel is quite popular in the summer. Please watch for people coming the other way in the tunnel. There is not enough room for two full size rigs to pass in the tunnel and it can be difficult to impossible for an ATV and a Jeep or truck to pass. So, if you see the light at the end of the tunnel moving, wait for them to come through before you go. :)
The water can be quite deep any time of year but is ALWAYS deep in the spring and early summer. The water is deepest on the Boulder side. 3 foot of water is not uncommon. There are no large rocks in the tunnel, however, when the water is deep, large wooden beams can float around in the deeper pools so keep watch.
When the lights come on. (Photo by Daryl Hardie)
During the winter the Boulder (south) end of the tunnel ices over and you cannot pass safely if at all.
Frozen Tunnel (Photo by Richard Hiltz)
Trail Description By: Richard Hiltz
NOTE: We are simply describing a 4x4 route. We accept no responsibility for your decisions. 4x4 off-roading can be great fun but it can also be dangerous. People can get hurt and vehicles can get stuck and/or damaged. Trail conditions can, do, and will, change at any time. Road conditions may no longer be accurately reflected in this or any trail description. Only you can decide what trails or obstacles your experience and vehicle can safely navigate. When in doubt, turn around. Wheel Safe!!