Summer in the Bitterroot National Forest

Summer is a great time to visit the Bitterroot National Forest.  Recreation opportunities abound here including camping at 24 developed campgrounds and 5 group sites, hiking on more than 1,600 miles of trails, fishing for brook and rainbow trout in crystal-clear Alpine lakes, boating, biking, horseback riding and more.  The Forest is home to many species of wildlife including deer, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats and moose, plus many varieties of smaller animals and birds.  You can view them in their natural habitat from one of our Wildlife viewing areas.

See more ideas below of summer activities and events happening in the Forest.

Hike in the Mountains 

Little Rock Creek on the Darby Ranger District.If you are looking for beautiful scenery without having to travel too far, you have come to the right place.  The Bitterroot Mountains offer many choices for both avid hikers to those just looking for a relaxing day hike.  Some of the more popular trails include Blodgett Canyon, Bear Creek Trail & Overlook, and St. Mary Peak - home to an active fire lookout.  Click here for some suggestions of great day hike locations.  You can also find local hiking books, trail guides and maps at the Discover the Bitterroot store located at the Supervisor’s Office in Hamilton.

Rent a Cabin or Lookout 

Magruder CabinThe Bitterroot National Forest offers a unique recreational experience at one of many rental lookouts and cabins.  There are three rental lookouts that provide stunning views of the surrounding Sapphire, Bitterroot, and Anaconda Pintler mountain ranges.  Four rustic cabins offer a serene and relaxing getaway from the busy daily life.  A night spent in a Forest Service fire lookout perched high atop a mountain, or in a primitive and rustic cabin nestled deep in the woods can be a unique and memorable experience.  Click here for more information on how to rent a lookout or cabin.

Visit Historical Places

Darby Historic Visitor Center.The Historic Darby Ranger Station Visitor's Center and Museum is adjacent to the Darby Ranger Station. Between 1965 and 1990 this building was used by the Bitterroot Hot Shot Fire Crew.  In 1991, it was converted into the Historical Visitors Center.  The building is accessible for those with disabilities. The Center is part of the National Forest Service Museum and has local information and brochures available along with weather/road reports and maps.  Historic Forest Service items are on display in the building and picnic tables are located outside.

Visit a Wilderness Area

Anaconda Pintler Wilderness

AP Lake pictureThe Bitterroot National Forest manages 41,000 acres of the 158,516-acre Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness.  There are 280 miles of hiking and stock trails throughout the wilderness.  The AP Wilderness is made of rugged mountains saddling the Continental Divide and is located in southwestern Montana approximately 22 miles west of Anaconda, Montana, or 14 miles east of Sula, Montana. It is known for its high, rugged, and beautiful mountain scenery where mountain goats make their home.  Elevations range from 5,100 feet in the lower reaches to 10,793 feet on West Goat Peak.  To find out more information click here.

Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness

FCRNR Wilderness river pictureRanking as the second largest Wilderness in the National Wilderness Preservation System is only one of the many attributes of which the Frank Church-River of No Return can boast. Its namesake, Frank Church (Senator and lawyer) played a major role in passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964, and in the creation of the River of No Return Wilderness in 1980. The treacherous waters of the Main Salmon River slice through a chasm deeper than the Grand Canyon - hence its moniker as the River of No Return. The Bitterroot National Forest manages 194,000 acres of the 2.4 million acre Frank Church Wilderness.  There are 2405 miles of hiking and stock trails throughout the wilderness.  Portions of this 2.4 million acre Wilderness are located on four different national forests—the Bitterroot, Nez Perce-Clearwater, Payette, and Salmon-Challis.  To find out more information click here.

Selway Bitterroot Wilderness

SBW Packstring pictureThe Bitterroot National Forest manages 508,000 of the 1.3 million acres Selway Bitterroot Wilderness (SBW).  Throughout the wilderness there are 1,800 miles of hiking and stock trails.  The Bitterroot Mountains form a rugged, glacier-carved border between Idaho and Montana. On both sides of this border is the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, the third largest Wilderness in the Lower 48. Only the 600 foot wide Nez Perce Trail (the Magruder Corridor), an unimproved dirt road, separates the Selway-Bitterroot from the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Except for the high crest of the Bitterroot Mountains, the area is dominated by ridges broken with raw granite peaks. Below the ridges are deep canyons covered with thick coniferous forest. Hidden low valleys are rich with old-growth cedar, fir, and spruce, with Ponderosa Pine dominating open grassy slopes along the rivers.  To find out more information click here.