Anaconda Pintler Wilderness Area

View from West Pintler Peak


The Anaconda Pintler Wilderness Area is named for the Anaconda Mountain Range and Charles Ellsworth Pintler, an early settler to the Big Hole Valley who first came to the area in 1885.  One of the jewels of the Northern Rockies, the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness 158,712 acres in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Bitterroot national forests. It was designated in 1964, the year the Wilderness Act was signed.

The Anaconda Pintler Wilderness straddles the Continental Divide along the crest of the Anaconda Range in southwestern Montana, positioned between the Bitterroot Valley to the northwest and the Big Hole Valley to the south. Streams and rivers drain to the Bitterroot and Big Hole rivers as well as Rock Creek. While the Anaconda Range’s permanent snowfields today are modest, the Wilderness protects a spectacular array of glacially carved landforms. These include tarn-pocked cirques, huge U-shaped valleys, knife-edged ridges (arêtes), and moraines.  Elevations stretch from 5,100 feet along the canyon bottoms to 10,893 feet at West Goat Peak (one of several 10,000-plus-footers in the Wilderness).

Geologically, the Anacondas include Precambrian and Paleozoic limestones, sandstones, and other sedimentary layers struck with igneous intrusions.

Ecologically canyon bottoms support riparian forests and willow thickets, while vegetation on the mountain slopes ranges from sagebrush in the foothills through spruce-fir and pine forests to subalpine communities of quaking aspen, whitebark pine, and alpine larch.  Along the high Divide, bare rock, tundra, and snowfields reign.

Native wildlife includes many of the large mammals indigenous to the Rockies at the time of Euro-American settlement, among them mule deer, elk, moose, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, wolverine, gray wolf, puma, black bear, and the occasional grizzly bear. The Anaconda Pintler Wilderness offers endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. U.S. Highway 93 and Montana Highways 38, 1, and 43 provide access to numerous trails. A 45-mile-long portion of the Continental Divide Trail cleaves the heart of the Wilderness. Backpackers should practice leave-no-trace ethics among the alpine lakes, which are sensitive to overuse. Mountaineering opportunities abound on the high peaks.

General Wilderness Prohibitions:

  • Possessing or using a motor vehicle, motorboat or motorized equipment except as authorized by federal law or regulation.  36 CFR 261.18(a)
  • Possessing or using a hang glider or bicycle. 36 CFR 261.18(b)
  • Landing of an aircraft, or dropping or picking up of any materials, supplies, or persons by means or aircraft including a helicopter.  36 CFR 261.18(c)

Prohibited by Special Order in the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness:

  • Self-Issued Registration required for Wilderness access.
  • Any group over 12 people and 12 head of stock (36 CFR 261.57b & 261.58f).
  • Grazing or tethering of stock within 200 feet of any lake (36 CFR 261.57a & 261.57e).
  • Stock use on Hope Lake Trail #424 (36 CFR 261.57a & 261.57b).
  • Campfires within a ¼ mile of Lakes: Oreamnos, Sawed Cabin, Upper Phyllis, Upper Carpp, Surprise, Bear, Buck, Emerald, Lost Lakes, Lower Phyllis, Park Lakes, Sauer, Continental, unnamed lake below Queener Mountain, and unnamed lake west of Warren Lake (36 CFR 261.52a).
  • Use of stock on Pintler District from April 1 to July 1 (36 CFR 261.57a & 261.57b).
  • Camping with stock within ¼ mile of: Sawed Cabin, Oreamnos, and Ripple Lakes (36 CFR 261.57a & 261.57b).
  • Caching storing equipment, personal property, or supplies for more than 16 consecutive days within any 45-day period (36 CFR 261.58a &261.57f).
  • Unacceptable Food Storage between March 1 and December 1 (36 CFR 261.58).
  • There may be other special regulations in specific areas.  Contact a Forest Service office before you visit to get information on any fire, camping, group size, or grazing restrictions.

Stock Use:

Forage is scarce and in some areas nonexistent.  It's advisable to pack in stock feed. Pelletized feed or certified weed seed free hay is required in the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness.  Grazing or tethering of stock within 200 feet of any lake is prohibited.  

Q & A's:  Grazing and Tethering Stock and the 200 foot Setback

  • Why is there a stock set-back from lakes in the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness?  A growing concern about impacts to fragile lakeshore areas prompted this regulation.

  • Why are lakeshores important?  Lakeshore condition directly influences water quality, visual beauty, wildlife habitat, fisheries.  Lakeshores have fragile vegetation and are especially subject to soil com­paction and erosion.  Tying, picketing or grazing stock on the lakeshores potentially threatens these areas.

  • How am I supposed to water my horse?  You can cross the 200' area to water your horse.  Pick a place where you won't break down banks or tear up wet areas.  The main idea is to avoid having stock in the lakeshore areas for more than a brief period of time.

  • How many paces is 200'?  About 80 adult steps equals 200'.  For children, about 100 steps. 

  • What about unloading my stock?  You are allowed to water and unload horses in the set-back area.  The 200' limitation only applies to grazing and tethering.

  • Does this mean I can't camp within 200' of the lake?  No. This is not a camping restriction. Please use good judgement and camp where you will have the least impact to the lakeshore. To minimize impacts it is usually best to camp 200 feet away from the lakeshore when possible. 

  • How hard is it to do lakeshore rehabilitation?  Once a lakeshore is damaged it is extremely difficult to get it back to original condition.  It's always better to prevent the damage in the first place.

Information about hunting and fishing in the AP can be obtained from the Montana Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, 3201 Spurgin Road, Missoula, MT 59801, 406/542-5500.

You can learn more about the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness at