Camping Season Begins Memorial Day Weekend on Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF

Release Date: May 16, 2014

Contact(s): Leona Rodreick

     Memorial Day weekend marks the kickoff for outdoor summer recreation and camping season.  The Beaverhead-Deerlodge is the largest national forest in Montana, covering 3.3 million acres in seven counties of Southwest Montana and offers an abundance of recreational opportunities for people to enjoy. 

          Visitors are encouraged to be prepared for changing weather conditions and to bring potable drinking water, as temperatures at night are still quite cool and some campground water systems have not been opened yet.  Visitors should contact their local Forest Service office to find out if their favorite campsite is accessible before heading to the outdoors.

     2014 spring was late and wet and many areas of the Forest may still be inaccessible over Memorial Day weekend.  There is also the potential for high water and runoff.  Check with local ranger stations for road and trail conditions before planning your outing.  Visitors are also reminded to stay away from soft and muddy roads.  Driving around snow drifts is unwise because of the damage it causes to vegetation and soil. If you get stuck, help may not be available due to limited cell phone coverage in the back country.  When driving in the outdoors, visitors are encouraged to notify the Forest Service of any flooding conditions, plugged culverts, downed trees or road damage so that repairs can be made.      

     Many trails may not be open yet due to late spring storms.  Trail users should expect many trails to be impassable from fallen trees and snow.

     Forest officials ask that you to be careful and to never to leave a campfire unattended, and make sure your coals are cool to the touch before you leave.  Conditions are drying out quickly and visitors need to be fire safe. 

     Visitors are also asked to be careful when recreating in the forest due to the potential for trees to fall.  Here are a couple of handy tips:  Be aware of your surroundings and avoid dense patches of dead trees.  Trees can fall without warning; place tents and park vehicles in areas where they will not be hit if a tree falls; Stay out of the forest when there are strong winds that could blow down trees. If you are already in the forest when winds kick up, head to a clearing out of reach of any potential falling trees.

     In the Butte-Whitehall Area,Beaverdam, Lowland, Delmoe Lake, Whitehouse, Pigeon Creek, Mormon, Ladysmith and Toll Mountain Campgrounds will be open.  Water will be available at Beaverdam, Lowland, Delmoe Lake and Whitehouse. Camping costs at Delmoe Lake are $8 per site plus $3 for each extra vehicle per night.  Camping costs at Beaverdam and Lowland are $5 per site per night.  Homestake and Elkhorn picnic areas will be open as well.

    Thompson Park is open daily from 8 a.m. until 9:00 pm daily.  There are three picnic areas and two trailheads that access 25 miles of non-motorized trails, including the Milwaukee Rails to Trails.  The park is co-managed with Butte-Silver Bow through October.  Trail and disc golf brochures are available at each recreation site, Butte Ranger District office, Butte Chamber of Commerce, and Butte-Silver Bow Parks and Recreation office at 1700 Civic Center Road.   The Thompson Park disc golf course is the only legal course open to the public for use on the National Forest.

     Sheepshead Recreation Area, north of Butte, offers fishing and picnicking for groups and will open June 15. The pavilions at Sheepshead and Freedom Point can be reserved for weddings, picnics, and other types of day-use activities.  Call the Butte Ranger District to reserve the pavilions.

      For updates on access to recreation sites, contact the Forest Service offices in Butte at (406) 494-2147 or in Whitehall at (406) 287-3223.

     For the Georgetown Lake, Philipsburg and Deer Lodge Valley areas the following campgrounds will be open by Memorial Day weekend: Lodgepole, Cable, Flint Creek, East Fork, Copper, Racetrack, Philipsburg Bay Loop A and Piney Campground (The boat launch and Loop A only). Spring Hill, Orofino, Philipsburg Bay and the remainder of Piney, will open by May 31st.    Certain sites within these campgrounds may be closed as hazard tree removal continues, visitors are asked to respect those closures.  Spillway will be closed for the season for safety reasons due to numerous standing beetle killed trees. Grassy Point and Red Bridge should also be available for use by Memorial Day along with the day use sites around Georgetown Lake.  Visitors are reminded to bring potable drinking water as not all water systems are open due to snow and cold night time temperatures.  Trail crews will begin work in early June and will begin working on the highest use trails first.

     Call Forest Service offices in Philipsburg, (406) 859-3211 or in Deer Lodge, (406) 846-1770 for more information.

     Some of the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness trailheads are accessible at this point, but not all.   Visitorswill likely encounter snow within a couple miles of trailheads, but most lakes are still snow covered  As a reminder, use of stock within the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness is prohibited on the Pintler District April 1 through July 1.  Check with Forest Service offices in Wise River, Philipsburg, Sula or Wisdom for details as you plan your wilderness trip.

     In the Big Holearea some campgrounds will be available for limited use.  Call the Wisdom Ranger District at (406) 689-3243, or Wise River Ranger District at (406) 832-3178 for more information before heading out for your trip.

   Visitors are reminded to be cautious of ongoing hazard tree removal.  Travelers may reach the historic Canyon Creek charcoal kilns west of Melrose; however, Vipond Park is not accessible, due to deep snow.  Call the Wise River Ranger District at (406) 832-3178 to get the most up to date information on conditions.


 The Pioneer Mountain Scenic Byway, between Wise River and the Grasshopper Valley remains closed because of heavy snowfall this winter.  Grasshopper Campground on the south end of the Scenic Byway is partially open. The road will not be plowed open until the snowpack at the higher elevations has significantly diminished.

     Elsewhere along the Pioneer Mountain Scenic Byway, lower elevation campgrounds; Pettengill, 4th of July, Boulder, Lodgepole, and Willow will be partially open with limited services. Some sites are still full of snow and water systems are not yet operating.  Secondary roads leading from the Scenic Byway to various trailheads are only open short distances because of remaining snowpack.

     Many forest roads are still blocked by snow, including the upper end of Thief Creek road, above the Birch Creek Center, and Upper Willow Creek. Travel may not be possible up-drainage to Gorge or Tendoy Lakes until mid-June. 

     Some access roads into the Lima Peaks, Tendoys, and Bloody Dick Range are open. Access to Reservoir Lake and the Big Hole Divide is limited due to snow.  Lemhi Pass and the Sacajawea Memorial Camp are not open. Browns Lake, out of Glen, along Interstate 90, on Rock Creek is open, but access further up the drainage is not possible or is limited.  Creek and river levels are rising as warmer temperatures arrive. Caution should be used when playing and hiking around main tributaries.  Contact the Dillon Ranger District at (406) 683-3900.

     In Madison County, Potosi and Mill Creek campgrounds will be open; however, potable water will not be available. 

     Several campgrounds in Madison County are operated by a concessionaire, under supervision of the Forest Service. They lie near the Madison River and include West Fork, Riverview, Madison River, Wade Lake, Cliff Point, and Hill Top.  Visitors are encouraged to call the concessionaires, Dave or Laurie Schmidt, at (406) 682-7560 for the latest information on camping opportunities at these campgrounds.

   Many roads in the Gravelly Range won’t be open until July 1. This allows roads to dry before they get traffic. 

    There are rules in place Forest wide to protect both the visitor and wildlife; all food, attractants and refuse must be properly stored to potential bear encounters.  All food and refuse, including liquids other than water, must either be stored in a vehicle, an approved container, or hung 10 feet off the ground and four feet out from any tree or support pole. Free bear-proof containers are available for loan at the Forest Service offices.

        The Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF offers 25 backcountry cabins for rent. You’ll need to bring food and bedding, but most cabins come with firewood, beds, and utensils. To rent a cabin, call toll free, 1-877-444-6777 or go online to

     Remember, too, that off road driving by motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, pickups and other “motorized, wheeled vehicles” is prohibited in the National Forests of Montana. Vehicles must stay on existing roads and trails. Routes open to motorized vehicles are shown on our visitor map.  The Forest Service has a brochure explaining the travel rules as well as travel maps to help travelers know which routes they may travel.

     For more information contact your local Forest Service office or go online to