Stevensville Ranger District

The Stevensville Ranger District office is located in the historic town of Stevensville, Montana. Stevensville is recognized as the first permanent settlement in Montana, a fact reflected in its motto: “Where Montana Began”.  The District is the northernmost on the Bitterroot National Forest, and includes the mountains on either side of the Bitterroot Valley from the Ravalli County seat of Hamilton roughly to the town of Lolo. The District encompasses about 250,000 acres of public land, including about 100,000 acres within the scenic and majestic Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area. In contrast, the District also includes roughly 120 miles of designated Wildland Urban Interface along the Forest boundary which is experiencing continued population growth.  The Forest Headquarters is 20 miles south of Stevensville in Hamilton, which is the nearest full service community.  The Forest Service Region One Headquarters is in the city of Missoula, 28 miles north of Stevensville.  Missoula is the regional commerce center and home of the University of Montana. Go Griz!

The District is split into distinctive east and west halves by the private land in the Bitterroot Valley. The east half of the District is formed by the Sapphire Mountains, which rise from rolling, grassy foothills along the east side of the valley up through steep forested slopes to the rounded peaks of the Sapphire Divide. This part of the District is easily accessed by forest roads, except for the wild lands in the Stony Mountain Roadless Area in the Burnt Fork drainage. The Easthouse National Recreation Trail starts at Sawmill Saddle and runs along the Sapphire Divide for over 20 miles south to Skalkaho Pass. The Welcome Creek Wilderness on the adjacent Lolo National Forest lies along the eastern edge of the District near Cleveland Mountain. The Sapphire Range offers excellent hunting for elk and mule deer.

The western half of the District is formed by the towering, rocky peaks and deep, glacially carved canyons of the Bitterroot Mountains. Much of this country is within the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, which can be accessed via excellent foot trails up many of the canyons. The cirque basins at the heads of the canyons cradle over 30 high mountain lakes, many of which contain trout. Soaring cliffs near the mouths of many of the canyons are popular with rock climbers. This part of the Stevensville RD supports the highest known density of nesting peregrine falcons in Montana, as well as good populations of mountain goats, moose, wolves, black bears, marten, fishers, wolverines and pikas.

The Stevensville RD includes several popular developed recreation sites. The Bass Creek Recreation Area is located on the west edge of the Bitterroot Valley between Stevensville and Florence. The area includes the recently upgraded Charles Waters Memorial Campground, which contains 21 campsites available for $10 a night on a first come, first served basis. In addition, the Larry Creek Group Site is available to accommodate large groups, and can be reserved for $30 a night through the National Recreation Reservation Service ( The Bass Creek Recreation Area also features a day use picnic area, a large parking area designed for horse trailers, and an extensive system of trails popular with horse users, mountain bikers and hikers. Blodgett Canyon Campground is located west of Hamilton, and offers free camping on a first come, first served basis. Gold Creek Campground is located 12 miles southeast of Stevensville along the Burnt Fork, and offers free camping in a more primitive setting. The District offers many trailheads on both sides of the valley that lead to a variety of backcountry camp sites.  Other popular destinations include two lookout towers that are staffed during fire season, one on St. Mary Peak in the Bitterroots, and the other on Willow Mountain in the Sapphires. 

Stevensville Ranger District sign

Stevensville Ranger District

Bitterroot NF District Map

Bitterroot NF District Map Link opens in a Pdf Document

Bass Lake on the Stevensville Ranger District

Bass Lake - Stevensville Ranger District