This Beautiful Montana Wilderness Trail Takes You Through Paradise
Sometimes you just need to get away from it all, even in Montana.
You’ll find the Lee Metcalf Wilderness in the southwest portion of the Treasure State, which consists of 259,000 acres distributed across the Madison Mountain Range. The wilderness has four separate units, including the Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness, which is the first designated wilderness area operated by the Bureau of Land Management.
The best way to see the wilderness is by taking the Bear Trap National Recreation Trail. This 9 mile trail can only be accessed from the north end, so there’s no through-hiking. 1,500 foot cliffs border the canyon and provide a nice backdrop for hikers and sightseers.
Since the trail can only be accessed from the north, you’ll enjoy more solitude the further you hike. The trail winds through the 6,000 acre canyon, offering a firsthand look at its natural beauty. At the southern end of the trail you’ll see the dam and powerhouse holding back Ennis Lake. Hiking around the dam is prohibited.
Although the hike is lengthy, it’s considered easy enough for a beginner to love. The trail along the river has a very gentle gradient and makes for an easy wilderness walk.
But don’t worry, if you’re the adventurous type there’s still plenty of way to have an adrenaline rush while in the Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness. Once you get up close and personal with the water, you’ll see some of the roughest whitewater in Montana. The 9 mile float through the water includes the famous Class V Kitchen Sink rapid, so whitewater skills are recommended before attempting to float.
At the end of your day of exploration, you can set up to camp under the stairs. Hike-in camping is permitted in the wilderness, but you minimize the impact to the area, using stove fires instead of open fires are highly encouraged.
Whether you see it on foot or from a raft, the Bear Trap Canyon is a beautiful part of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness area. Here are some other underrated gems in Montana.
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