Lee Metcalf Wilderness

Group of three photos of wilderness landscapes including mountains, water, and trees.







Established as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System in November 1983, the Lee Metcalf Wilderness consists of 259,000 acres distributed across the Madison Range in southwest Montana. The wilderness contains four separate units. The Bear Trap Canyon unit of 6,000 acres is administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The other three units are administered by the Forest Service and are in the Gallatin and Beaverhead-Deerlodge national forests. The three are Spanish Peaks, 76,000 acres; Taylor Hilgard, 141,000 acres; and Monument Mountain, 33,000 acres.

Flora and Fauna

The Lee Metcalf includes a variety of physical and biological communities ranging from the low-elevation Bear Trap Canyon on the Madison River (about 4500 feet) to alpine ridges and peaks above 11,000 feet. There are no active glaciers in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness although the high cirque basins and U-shaped drainages provide evidence of Pleistocene glaciation. The wilderness receives variable precipitation, from an average of 11 inches in the Bear Trap to over 60 inches in the Madison Range. Treeline is generally around 9,000 to 10,000 feet. Between treeline and the high rocky peaks alpine and sub-alpine vegetation is dominant. 

Wildlife is abundant throughout the wilderness and includes mountain goat and sheep, black and grizzly bear, moose, elk, cougar, and wolf. Cutthroat, rainbow, and brook trout can be found in the lakes and streams.


There are 300 miles of trail and 28 trailheads that provide access to the Lee Metcalf Wilderness. Access to the west side is via U.S. Highway 287 south from Ennis toward West Yellowstone. The east side of the wilderness is accessed from U.S. Highway 191 between Bozeman and West Yellowstone.


There are regulations in place to protect and preserve the wilderness character. A complete list of these regulations is located at each trailhead, on the Lee Metcalf Wilderness map, or from a Forest Service or BLM office listed below. 

A few of the regulations for the Lee Metcalf Wilderness are:

  • All food, carcasses, and attractants must be properly stored to be inaccessible to grizzly bears;
  • Maximum party size is limited to 15 people and 20 head of livestock in the Taylor Hilgard, Monument Mountain, and Bear Trap units, and 15 people and 15 head of livestock in the Spanish Peaks Unit. Pack and saddle stock are allowed in the Bear Trap Canyon only from October 15 to December 15.
  • You may not stay more than 16 days at any site in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest nor mor than 15 days at any site in the Gallatin National Forest. In Bear Trap Canyon the maximum length of stay is three days in the inner canyon, and 14 days in the rest of the Bear Trap Unit.
  • All livestock feed must be certified weed-seed free.

More Information

For more information go to our regulations page.

You can find out more about the Lee Metcalf Wilderness and other wildernesses at Wilderness.net