Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Renovating Northern cabins: Forest Service improves rental cabins using Great American Outdoors Act funding

Tim Stauffer
Northern Region
November 2, 2022

The Forest Service is home to some of the most renowned recreational accommodations across the country. Offerings range from old homesteads, historic log ranger stations and early 20th century lookouts built by the Civilian Conservation Corps to the modern cabins and watchtowers of today. 

a comparison shot of a cabin, before and after renovations
The Star Meadows Cabin before and after a new roof; one of three cabins to receive a new roof during the summer of 2022. Additional updates to Flathead National Forest rental cabins will continue in 2023. (USDA Forest Service photos by Julie Gerrior (before) and Sergio De leon (After)

In the Forest Service’s 25-million-acre Northern Region, public recreational lands in Montana and northern Idaho contain some of the most picturesque wilderness areas, ski resorts, mountain ranges and lakes. Now, visitors can enjoy newly renovated cabins, thanks to funding provided by the Great American Outdoors Act.

The Forest Service cabin rental program provides a unique recreation experience for the public by allowing guests to stay in a historical Forest Service structure, surrounded by pristine national forest. While unique, these old structures need repairs and updates to remain serviceable. 

Funds provided through the Great American Outdoors Act are helping the agency respond to a growing backlog of deferred maintenance, estimated at about $5.2 billion, comprised of $3.7 billion for roads and bridges, and $1.5 billion for visitor centers, campgrounds and other types of facilities.

“Maintaining and improving infrastructure on the lands we manage is key to our ability to serve the public,” said Chris Prew, Flathead National Forest recreation program manager. “Autumn is the perfect time for Americans to enjoy the fall foliage in one of our newly renovated rental cabins.”

A before and after comparison shot of renovations inside a cabin
Ben Rover Cabin outfitted with new furniture (right) for guests to enjoy. The cabin is 35 miles north of Columbia Falls, perched near the Wild and Scenic Flathead River in Montana.  (USDA photo by Anthony Butterfield)

The funding is being used on the Flathead National Forest in northwest Montana to renovate and reduce deferred maintenance on 16 rental cabins. Projects include roof replacements, electrical repairs, window replacements, wood stove replacements, septic tank repairs, kitchen countertop/cabinet and appliance updates, furniture updates, and accessibility improvements to meet American Disability Act requirements.

To reserve a Forest Service rental cabin on the Flathead National Forest or recreation sites on other national forests and grasslands, visit includes tools, services and information for roughly 4,200 facilities and activities and more than 113,000 individual reservable sites across the country.