Looking north over Rattlesnake Wilderness from Mosquito Peak. Photo courtesy of Meg Nemitz, 07/15/2008
The southern boundary of the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness (RNRAW) is four miles north of Missoula, Montana. The National Recreation Area (NRA) lies south and adjacent to the wilderness and receives heavy use, particularly in the South Zone, within about three miles of the main trailhead. Far fewer people venture into The Rattlesnake Wilderness which is in the more remote, and northern, portion of the RNRAW.
There is a trail that takes off from the main trailhead into the National Recreation Area along Rattlesnake Creek to within three miles of a scenic cluster of high alpine lakes in the wilderness. The elevation varies from 3600 feet at the NRA entrance to 8620 feet on McLeod Peak.
The Welcome Creek Wilderness lies in the Rock Creek drainage about 25 miles east of Missoula, Montana. This 28,135 acre wilderness measures about nine miles by seven miles.
The ridges are so steep and the valleys narrow and uneven that even finding a flat tent spot can be tough in much of the area. Most of the land is heavily timbered with pine, fir and larch (although the south-facing slopes have a few open but very steep grassy slopes) and is extremely rocky and rough.
Welcome Creek flows south and east, providing a home to native trout. Elk hunters, bear hunters and a few adventurous fishermen from Rock Creek are the most common visitors.
About 25 miles of steep trails provide foot and horse access, but overnight backpackers are few and far between. The main travel route is the Welcome Creek Trail, a brushy, rocky trail which crosses the area southeast to northwest for approximately seven miles, passing no lakes (this wilderness has none).
The Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness is the third largest wilderness in the lower 48 states, surpassed in size only by California's Death Valley Wilderness and Idaho's Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness (RONR). Less than one-fifth of the area lies in Montana (see Idaho, Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness).
Only the 600-foot-wide Nez Perce Trail (The Magruder Corridor), an unimproved dirt road, separates the Selway-Bitterroot from the Frank Church-RONR. This Wilderness straddles both sides of the Bitterroot Mountain Range, which stands along the Montana-Idaho border and includes the Wild and Scenic Selway River, all of which flows through Idaho.
A small portion of this wilderness is within the Lolo National Forest. Montana access is mostly through the Bitterroot National Forest.
Together, the Great Bear Wilderness, the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Scapegoat Wilderness form the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, an area of more than 1.5 million acres.
The Seeley Lake Area portion of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex is the western half of the Scapegoat Wilderness. The Seeley Lake portion of the Scapegoat Wilderness is a size of 78,000 acres. The eastern half is approximately 78,000 acres and is administered by the Lincoln Ranger District on the Helena National Forest.
Scapegoat Mountain is a prominent feature of the wilderness. A lot of the access into the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex is via the Seeley Lake Area. Even though backpacking activity occurs in this area the predominant recreational use is horse and mule packing.