Welcome Creek Wilderness, Montana

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Welcome Creek Wilderness

The Welcome Creek Wilderness, located in western Montana and a mere 25 miles east of Missoula, is a beautiful yet daunting wilderness filled with tight valleys, extremely steep slopes, and dense foliage that are anything but welcoming. Read More

  • Just 25 miles east of Missoula.
  • Home to some of the wildest, steepest slopes and tightest valleys of the region.
  • Brimming with trout, this is a fisherman's dream.
  • Keep your eyes out for gold; the miners of the past may have left a bit behind.

Overview

With an inviting name like the Welcome Creek Wilderness, this wilderness is anything but welcoming. Tight valleys that rise into steep ridges of densely forested slopes will leave the explorer scrambling over rocky terrain just to make minimal headway.

Designated a wilderness area in 1978, the Welcome Creek Wilderness, one of the few protected lowlands in the area, was designated as such in an effort to protect the Rock Creek drainage and it's superb fisheries. Luckily, this move proved successful and fishing in the area is absolutely fantastic.

This heart-shaped, 28,135 acre wilderness with over 25 miles of trails receives relatively little use other than elk and bear hunters and the occasional adventurous fisherman. Incredibly steep terrain and thick vegetation make finding a campsite virtually impossible.

With few visitors, the Welcome Creek Wilderness is the perfect spot for collecting your thoughts on an arduous and isolated hike.

Location/Information

The Welcome Creek Wilderness Area is located 25 miles east of Missoula. From Missoula, head east on I-90 and take the Rock Creek Road exit. Follow the creek upstream and the Welcome Creek Wilderness Area is across the creek and slightly to the right.

The Wilderness is managed by the Lolo National Forest. For questions, maps, and general information contact the forest service office. Phone: 406-329-3814. 

Activities

The harsh terrain of the Welcome Creek Wilderness area unfortunately limits much of the access to this protected habitat. Day hike use is increasing as more people discover and learn to appreciate this isolated area. If you do venture in for a hike, be careful as the land is rough and rocky with steep slopes, so mind your steps so you don't turn an ankle.

Hiking
One of the main activities available in Welcome Creek is hiking. The landscape leaves few spots to pitch a tent on, but a day hike is perfect.

The Welcome Creek Trail, roughly 7 miles, runs along Welcome Creek. It is dense with brush and full of rocks but still the most widely used. A great hike for catching a glimpse of this isolated wilderness.

Fishing
With the Welcome Creek Wilderness just across the way from Rock Creek and home to its namesake Welcome Creek, this area is asking to be fished. With trout a plenty the hardest part will be getting to the creek itself. 

Don't forget to get a fishing permit.  They are available at a local fly shop or from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Horseback Riding
Usually, four legs are better then two for steep, intimidating terrain, but not here. Although horses are allowed, this wilderness is almost too steep for horses to safely traverse the area.

Hunting
Hunters are the dominant explorers of the Welcome Creek Wilderness. The search for big game leads them through thick foliage and up steep slopes in search of the elusive elk or bear.

For specific regulations and permits, contact the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. 

Cross-country Skiing/Snowshoeing
The western portion of the wilderness just below the Sapphire Divide is where to find excellent Cross-country skiing. Because of the steep slopes check the avalanche report before venturing out.

Fun Facts

This area hasn't always been so isolated. More then a century ago, these slopes were covered with miners, gold diggers and outlaws. The largest Montana gold nugget was found in this wilderness. It tipped the scales at 1.5 pounds.

Slowly, the bounty grew smaller and smaller and the mines were abandoned. That is except for the fugitives and outlaws that continued to scrambled up the steep mountains in hopes of escaping the law.

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