Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, Montana

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Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest

Conserved for over a century, the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, tucked in southwestern Montana, is not only a pristine wilderness but also a natural playground for all your outdoor desires. Read More

  • Get ready to view lots of wildlife; all the possible sightings will leave you exclaiming, “Lions, and Moose, and Bears, oh, my!”
  • Over 3 million acres of valleys, mountains, alpine lakes, arid grasslands and rivers to explore.
  • The Beaverhead- Deerlodge National Forest is easy to access in both summer and winter.

Overview

At a staggering 3.35 million acres it is no wonder that the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is the largest in Montana. Encompassing two wilderness areas, over a dozen mountain ranges, the continental divide, and numerous headwaters means that the landscape is diverse and offers a bit of adventure for everyone.

Follow in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark by exploring Lemhi Pass, 7,323 ft. Don't worry, you won't have to hike the whole way as the pass is accessible by a steep, single-lane gravel road.

In the winter, make sure to bundle up and strap on your snow shoes and bound through the valleys or glide along on your cross-country skis.

Prefer not to bundle up, then summit your way through summer. Cruise through this pristine wilderness on back-country roads or throw on a backpack and hike to the heart of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

Locations/Directions

The main ranger station is found in Dillon and is open year round. Other offices can be found in Butte, Philipsburg, Deer Lodge, Whitehall, Ennis, Sheridan, Wise River and Wisdom. This place is big, so stop in at the closest ranger station if you have questions or need to purchase maps of the area.

Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest
420 Barrett St.
Dillon, MT 59725-3572
Phone numbers:
(406) 683-3900
(406) 683-3913 (24-hour recorded information line)

Hours/Seasons

The national forest is open year round but in the winter, some access roads may close due to heavy snowfall. Check with the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest hotline before venturing out in the winter.

Activities

With so much land under protection, the activities are endless.

Hiking
There are countless trails for the day hiker or the backpacker. Spend your day knee deep in wildflowers or set out for a view of one of the high mountain lakes. Below are some of the many trails available.

  • Lost Cabin Lake Trail #150: This 3.4 mile trail, which starts at Bismark Reservoir is generally accessible from July 1 thru mid-October. Look forward to being dwarfed by the surrounding peaks which reach up to 10,000 ft. A mountain goat viewing is highly likely. For access, take I-90 east to the Cardwell exit then continue on MT Hwy 359 south to South Boulder Road #107. From #107 it is 15 miles to th Bismark Reservoir trail head.
  • Pioneer Loop National Recreation Trail #750: This massive 35 mile hike on a lightly used trail is the perfect trip out of the city and into the wilderness. Crossing along the ridge tops of the West Pioneer Mountains, this hike is sure to impress with it's lofty views. Pay attention down in the valleys where the trail can become hidden under fields of brush and wildflowers. 5 miles south of Wise River, Stine Creek along Pioneer Mountain Scenic Byway #73.
  • Louise Lake Trail # 168: Look up at the mountain cliffs and you'll probably spot a mountain goat or two. From this alpine lake you will have a stupendous view of the Tobacco Root Mountains. At 4 miles, you may want to pack a lunch and make it a day excursion. Trail can be accessed with the same directions found for the Lost Cabin Lake Trail.

Mountain Biking
A number of the hiking trails double as mountain biking trails. Here's one to get you started.

  • Beaverponds Trail #105: At 2.67 miles this ride will get your blood pumping but not annihilate you. The trail which connects with the Continental Divide Trail will lead you past many beaver dams. From Butte, take Hwy 2 east. Traveling up the pass, the trail head is a approximately 7 miles from the junction of the second hairpin turn. It's actually not that confusing, you'll get it.

Fishing
Catch a prize rainbow trout on the famed Madison River. Maybe a pale morning dun hatch will greet you as you try your luck in Wade or Cliff Lakes. As home to numerous headwaters and alpine lakes the amount of fishing you do depends on how fast you can cast. Don't forget a fishing license, found at any local fly shop! When you are there, chat it up with the locals, they may let you in on the local hot spots.

Camping/ Cabins
50 campsites to choose from; some primitive, others simple and rustic, while others are prepped for RV's. You just have to pick which one fits your style. Most campsites are first come first serve.

Cabins are also available for rent. Originally used as patrol cabins, the fees now go to pay for maintenance and upkeep. You have 27 cabins to choose from. For information and reservations call the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest at 1-877-444-6777.

Horse Riding
A majority of hiking trails are multi-use. A majority of the horse trails can be found along the Pioneer Scenic Byway, so mount up and hit the trail. The national forest does have a weed-seed-free feed policy. So plan ahead and start feeding those horses weed-seed-free feed two days before you head out.

Hunting
You have reached big game hunting heaven. The season stretches from September to February picking back up around April depending on your species of choice. Pick from elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn deer, antelope, moose, and even black bear. Check with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks for hunting specifics, including license information.

Snowshoeing/Cross-Country Skiing
The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is not just for the summertime. West of Wisdom you will find over 24 miles of cross-country tracks that are groomed every week and just waiting for use. For snowshoeing, it is a bit easier. Find the snow, strap on your shoes, and bound along as you enjoy the scenery.

Downhill Skiing
With over a dozen mountain ranges and a lot of snow in the winter this is the place to be. Two ski resorts are found in the area.

  • Discovery Basin: This ski hill, just west of Anaconda, boasts steep back side verticals that are sure to keep you entertained all day.
  • Maverick Mountain: 35 miles off I-15, this ski hill may not be the most accessible but that is part of it's beauty. Tucked away with short lines and plenty of powder you are sure to smile all the way down.

Snowmobiling
The place to be is around Georgetown Lake. They have over 90 miles of trail ready for you to ride. Also, the Pioneer Scenic Byway is plowed in the winter, creating a great, scenic snowmobile ride.

Fun Facts

The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest may not have become what it is today without the help of local settlers and politicians alike. Back in 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt heard a lot of complaints from both the settlers and conservationist, leading him to set aside this land for future protection.

The extensive clear cutting being carried out by the Anaconda Mining Company was causing excess soil erosion thus contaminating and destroying the Big Hole River watershed. This compounded with throat clogging smoke pollution led them to action. This early stewardship laid the foundation for the current Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, today an adventurer's vast playground.

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